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The Rookie Teacher

Finding the Beauty in Education: My Time as an Educational Assistant 0

Posted on February 04, 2012 by Natasha

One of the great things about running an online community like TheRookieTeacher.ca is that we get to hear feedback from all over the province, country, and the world!  This week we heard from Dante Luciani who asked to share his story about being an EA & the experiences leading him to teaching:

Everyone is different. It is one of the many beautiful aspects of mankind. Everyone is blessed with abilities and face their own challenges. Although at times it seems some face more challenges than others.  For a year and a half I worked with students who faced many challenges, physically, mentally, and emotionally. As an Educational Assistant my job was to educate these students in basic life skills and to modify curriculum expectations to allow them to learn to their full potential. This quickly became the most rewarding experience of my entire life and taught me invaluable lessons that will no doubt assist me as a teacher in the future.

The students I worked with were identified with a number of exceptionalities placed over the entire special education spectrum. The students’ needs varied a great deal. Some students just needed guidance in an inclusive classroom whereas others required a great deal of support and assistance, sometimes the care of up to three EAs. Having myself been a young student that was assisted by an EA, I understood much of the frustration that some of these students felt. With this in mind I knew how far positive encouragement and support could go. Given their circumstances, these students have experienced much difficulty in the classroom often combined with feelings of exclusion.  Providing these students with a positive learning environment goes a long way in helping them feel included in the classroom and the school community. Nevertheless, the students who were of much higher needs required far more than just a positive learning environment to reach their full potential. Many of the students in our Life Skills classroom required much attention and assistance with basic tasks such as communication, feeding and toileting. I was to care for students in ways I never thought I would. It was definitely a learning experience and one that will make me a better person. The high-needs students’ curriculum consisted of learning basic life skills that will allow them to one day possibly be able to assist themselves. The challenges that these students face each day are unimaginable to me. Both the students as well as their families possess a rare strength that many of us could not imagine having. It was the most rewarding experience to see these students accomplish such basic tasks. Everyday tasks that we so often take for granted such as repeating a sentence or taking a bite out of a sandwich on their own became accomplishments that deserved much celebration. Seeing these children learn and develop right before your very eyes was one of the best feelings you could feel and ensured me that there is nowhere else that I would rather be than in education.

photo: D.Luciani

photo: D.Luciani

Over that year and a half, I learned the art of patience and saw its importance in the classroom. Every student is wired differently. They each work in different ways and at different paces. As teachers it is important that we understand and appreciate these differences because that is what makes everyone special. It is amazing what we can accomplish with a little guidance and positive support. I learned more from these students than they could possibly have learned from me. Working with these students created the most genuine positive environment to work in and I will forever be grateful for this experience.

So, next time you are faced with a student who is becoming a challenge for you, try embracing their differences and showing them a little care. You never know what other challenges they face on their own…….. A little love goes a long way!

Dante Luciani, Blog
Twitter: @dlearn12

Live simply.

Love generously.

Care deeply.

Speak kindly.

Leave the rest to God.

People might forget what you said.

People might forget what you did.

People will never forget how you made them feel.

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Preferred Lists: Are you listed? 10

Posted on January 13, 2012 by Michelle

Given the number of inquiries and misconceptions about OT [occasional teacher] opportunities, it is my hope this post will help to provide some clarity in relation to the preferred lists in Ontario school boards.

113:365 - Casterings Director by Nomadic Lass, flickrCC

Photo by Nomadic Lass, flickrCC.net

What is a preferred list, you might ask? In some boards, OTs can request to be added to a school’s list for “guaranteed” supply opportunities, placing them in priority sequence. In order to be added, they must have previous placement or work experience at the school. The purpose is simple – quality classroom consistency. Rather than sending requests through the internal callout system, teachers, administrators, and school secretaries may book specific OTs in advance. These lists, however, can be difficult to gain access to and often invoke the “it’s all in who you know” argument among those who have yet to be placed on a preferred list.

Preferred lists, however, are highly dependent on the OT locals’ collective agreement. In many cases, school boards have disposed of these internal preferred or emergency supply lists in favour of an automated system, which call out in a rotational, alphabetical or qualifications-based order. The following school boards have confirmed they do not offer internal preferred lists:

  • Limestone District School Board
  • Durham Catholic District School Board
  • Greater Essex County District School Board
  • Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board
  • Simcoe County District School Board
  • Bluewater District School Board
  • Bruce Grey Catholic District School Board

In York Region District School Board and in Peel District School Board, the number of teaching staff at each school determines the percentage of OTs listed – 15% of elementary staff and 10% of secondary staff can be placed on the preferred list. The school must submit the names of these preferred OTs to the board office, who are then given priority in the call out system. If you are successful in gaining access to these preferred lists, you are, however, limited to 2 schools, and will be removed if offered an LTO or permanent position.

In the District School Board of Niagara, school administrators may input jobs though the SEMS system directly to the preferred OT. Unlike YRDSB, there is no formal application process, rather it occurs through word of mouth.

While Avon-Maitland District School Board discourages the use of preferred lists given it can “tie up” the call out system, principals are entitled to setting up their own independent of the HR system.

In Wellington Catholic District School Board, while teachers may not request OTs, both school administrators and the secretaries may request a supply teacher. However, the board operates a fair call out procedure in that if one OT receives more calls than others, it can be limited. Similar to WCDSB, teachers and administrators in the Trillium Lakeheads District School Board can place [up to three] requests for specific OTs. However, if they are unavailable, the call is rerouted to the dispatcher, as opposed to an automated call out system.

The Waterloo District School Board and Halton District School Board make allowances for preferred lists, based on the recommendations of permanent teachers.

The question then remains, how do I get on to a preferred list?

Avengers by Dunechaser, flickrCC.net

photo by: Dunechaser, flickrCC.net

  • Make yourself known when you are in the school – introduce yourself to the staff and administrators! Lend a hand wherever needed. Socialize in the staff room. Leave contact information!
  • Carefully FOLLOW the lesson plans left by the permanent teacher!
  • DO leave a note or send an informative email to follow up after the day. DON’T leave a novel!
  • Ask about preferred lists and the procedures. Upon request, send your resume to the school administrator and show your interest in returning to their school!
  • Be sincere in all intentions – the school secretary and administrators do not wish to be bribed with chocolates, cards, and candies!

Are you on a preferred list? If so, what was your experience – please share! Regardless, I would love to hear your thoughts on preferred lists. Let’s help to minimize these misconceptions and educate one another in our journeys as “rookie teachers”!

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