Monday, September 22, 2003

Teaching with an Educational Assistant Means Collaboration and Team Work!

It can be difficult working with a partner, and a negative experience, can be hard to put aside. Teaching the whole class, with someone else in the room working individually with a child and talking too loudly can be a distraction and frustration for the students and teacher.

However, as a seasoned early childhood teacher, I have to point out that one does not need to be a state certified "teacher" to provide highly valuable, effective support and encouragement, not to mention indispensable educational contribution. After all, someone invested a great deal of energy in his or her classroom to train you, when you were interning as a student teacher! Working with an Educational Assistant, like team teaching, requires a commitment by both parties.

You MUST conference together and establish both of your functions, and how you can best both work together to accomplish those goals. There is no "Mommy vs. Daddy," when both parties clearly establish the ground rules. Whether you have a class of 35 or 15, there is nothing more valuable than an extra pair of eyes and hands. Little ones need all the help and encouragement they can get. Working with a partner must be a sensitive and highly focused partnership. Everyone must be on the same page.

If you are working with someone who is new, and not trained the way "you want them to step in and be trained," then exercise the sensitivity and organizational skills you use to help your students, to guide your assistant along. Courtesy is a way of life. The time and energy you put in during the first few weeks, building a partnership, will reap benefits for the rest of the year for both your students and you. If you are one of the fortunate ones, you will be able to work with your "partner" for years to come, as I did.

My licensed Educational Assistant was not a certified teacher. She went to school over the years and earned an Associates Degree, among other certifications. Her input and advice for students, parents and myself, was a gift I will always cherish. We may not have agreed on everything, but we respected each other and tag-teamed in the classroom with the ease that old partners develop over time.

If you are experiencing personality conflicts, you need to address the problem and move on. No one is perfect. We all have our own little personality quirks. You may want to get the advice of a more senior teacher or supervisor, on how you can better cope with your new partner. A poor previous partnering relationship does not mean that every future one will be as disappointing.

If your district is supportive enough to fund positions for school aides and educational assistants, rejoice. Revel in the knowledge that you can team up with someone who has the same goals as you- to help the children! We all started as newbies, regardless of our title. No one comes out of college and steps into the classroom as "Perfect Teacher." All of us struggled, made mistakes, and grew. We got help from others along the way.

Admittedly, there are times, when it is apparent that an assistant or teacher made a poor career choice. That they are not cut out to hold those positions. Then changes need to be made. This is, to my experience, not the rule, but the exception.

Just bear in mind, that working with anyone, a student, a parent, Educational Assistant or Team Teacher, requires solid planning and commitment from all parties for an effective end.

The following links offer more on this subject:

The Educational Assistant and the Teacher: Roles and Responsibilities
Educational Assistant
Classroom Assistants: Key Issues from the National Evaluation
An Extra Pair of Hands?
Working with Paraprofessionals

A teacher and Educational Assistant, working in tandem are indeed a blessing. Enjoy it!

I hope everyone has a healthy, happy, successful year!

posted by An Educational Voyage @ 9/22/2003 05:28:00 PM  
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