Tag Archives: Educators

A (Not so Ordinary) Day in The Life of an Education Professional

education

(Photo credit: Sean MacEntee) I reserve no rights.

The other day began with my frenzied attempt at getting my children ready for school as I prepared myself for work.  I still had a naked face (no makeup) while dropping them off, but a phone call from the school office soon had me scrambling to finish my morning routine.  I was requested to fill in all day for another paraprofessional.  This would mean a little extra bounce in next month’s paycheck, a modest amount to save for a rainy day.  And honesty, I felt like getting out of the house for a few extra hours.  I hurried back to the house, slapped on makeup, packed a little picnic style lunch, and returned to the school.

I didn’t fully understand what educators really do until I started working at the school.  People working in professions where frequent breaks are normal might imagine that education professionals would receive the same types of breaks.  This really isn’t the case due to the nature of working with children.  It isn’t practical to leave a busy classroom every time one needs a break; children always come first.  At the school, our breaks are scheduled at intervals throughout the day to create fluidity of motion where educators are constantly passing in the halls on the way to the next task.  After watching classroom teachers patiently guide boisterous children through their lessons, I have tremendous respect for their dedication and leadership abilities.  Naturally, I enjoy being part of the positive energy of turning rambunctious youngsters into eager scholars.

I started the workday in my favorite classroom, watching a substitute teacher introduce a lesson in map reading.   We learned that Canada has a whole bunch of islands to the north, and Cuba is not part of Florida.  Next, a trip to a classroom full of youngsters working on complex mathematics.  I had not worked with this grade — or class — before and felt out of my element, but my para training reminded me to follow the teacher’s lead.  I found myself entranced by the new style math strategies — a different yet simple system for calculating problems that seems to go against every rule my generation learned.  As the teacher explained how to calculate the problem using the technique, my brain both embraced and fought the “new math”, ultimately submitting happily to the foreign concept.  Now I can finally help my own children complete their homework assignments!

Shortly thereafter, I was hunted down for a yearbook photo.  I had successfully avoided this dubious task for the past two years, but the meticulous secretary tracked me down, even though on this day I was hiding far off my regular beaten path!  After clocking out for a hasty lunch (at 10:15 a.m) I had to clock back in as a lunch aide.  Back to the same old grind — telling children to line up, stop talking, eat lunch quietly.  Before I knew it, I was switching back to my paraprofessional duties for the remainder of the day.  I had the distinguished honor of escorting one child to the nurse’s office after she fled from the classroom to vomit — always a pleasure.  I nipped a few tantrums in the bud, then had one backfire in a rather ugly manner.  It’s hard to predict these tiny tempests sometimes.  I spent much of my day imparting disapproving looks upon children acting naughty (something I have become very good at).  I also was delighted to dish out many compliments, my favorite thing to do at the school.

I ended up in the gym in the early afternoon, wading through a throng of buzzing students.  There was much excitement over getting out of class for a guest speaker: Miss Kansas.  I’d been on my feet most of the day (another responsibility for education professionals) and my hips hurt.  The food service specialist (a fancy word for what we called the lunch lady when I was a kid) procured chairs for herself and me, and we relaxed our aching joints as Miss Kansas regaled the children with books addressing bullying and the acceptance of those with differences.  After finishing the books, MK asked students to help her make up a story featuring super heroes and bullies.  Things kind of derailed at that point, and she lost control of the room; after several meltdowns from the more high strung students, MK finally gave up.  It isn’t easy to force 400 restless children to sit enthralled for 40 minutes and listen to every thought running through your brain, but then that is why not everyone works with children.

By the time the children had been herded, I mean lovingly guided back to their classrooms, I had one break and one class to attend before the day’s end.  I compared notes with another para about how many children had melted down during the assembly.  I’d wanted to read an article about King Faisal I of Iraq, but the break room is Conversation Central,  and the magazine will be there next time.  My last class was quiet and a bit tedious; I was just counting down the minutes until clocking out.  When school let out I rounded up all my children, a group of five restless souls: my daughters and the neighbor children I watch after school each day.  After returning home, we conducted a very important experiment: is it possible to lick your own elbow?

— G

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Building The Resume

Chairs

I haven’t been writing much; it has been kind of a rough week.  The kids went back to school, which meant I had to go back to work.  Since the temperature has been too frigid for outdoor recess, the students at the school where I work have been acting the way I imagine caged rats might: nervous, cranky, a bit manic.  On my first day back at work I managed to immediately catch a cold and develop a whopping migraine, which is fantastic to experience amid the screams and squeals of hundreds of disgruntled children.

Not everything has been all bad this week.  Before Christmas vacation I was offered a promotion at the school.  Until then I had been working as a lunchroom/playground aide (I know, fancy title).  The school needed someone to spend time in one of the classrooms as a paraprofessional (the politically correct, more difficult to pronounce term for teaching assistant).  I was flattered to be considered a good fit for working with children in a tutoring capacity.  And the children do love me, so that helps.  On my first day as a “para” I was informed that soon I could (if I wanted) transition into just working in the classroom, with the same hours and better pay.  Um, count me in!  For now I get to do both jobs, and my foot is in the door for a potential long-term career in education.  If I can handle it.

The thought of giving up my playground/lunchroom duties did cause some consternation for me.  Being a playground/lunchroom aide allows me to interact with so many incredible little people, but my new supervisor reminded me that my promotion is a resume builder.  It is certainly my prerogative to remain in my current position, but if I am serious about advancing my career, I need to be open to changes.  Building my resume has been a major goal.  Before coming to the school, I hadn’t added anything new in ten years, and there were still jobs listed from my high school days!  Not terribly impressive, I’m afraid…Now I have been gainfully employed for nearly eighteen months, which is good, but I am delighted to be taking another step up the professional ladder.  It feels wonderful to be actively engaged in educational services, to contribute to my family’s income, and also to finally be building a base for a future careers.  I never have had that!

It has also been a long time since I’ve had a truly fulfilling job.  I’m sure that working with children is part of the secret.  Hugs, funny conversations, special moments… it’s all priceless.  Oh, there are still days when the little monsters leave me wanting nothing more than to crawl into bed with the T.V. remote and a pan of brownies.  Most days, however, I have a marvelous time working with the students and I am exuberant to tell my husband about my adventures.  I have learned that taking care of other parents’ children requires an abundant amount of energy.  Long before I clock in at the school my day begins with children.   I watch a neighbor boy in the morning and take him to school with my daughters.  After school I bring home a trio of vivacious youngsters along with my own, and listen to their lively conversations until their parents pick them up in the late afternoon.  I can now add ‘Nanny’ to my resume.  I’m really just doing my neighbors a favor so they can achieve their work and school goals.  Their children are very well-behaved and full of the vibrancy of young life.  It is nice to have a house teeming with children.  It is also nice to have quiet moments when I can rest and not be anything for anyone.  Not Mom, not Miss V, not “Hey, Lady“!  When I calculate the amount of time actually spent without children around, I don’t really get much of a break!

I was getting a little burned out right before Christmas.  Too many kids with attitudes, too much stress floating around the school.  I started considering looking for a different job, weighing the pros and cons of making a transition with my mediocre resume in the highly competitive job market.  Getting the promotion made me reevaluate where I stood at the school.  I have a good thing right at my fingertips; I just need to see it through.  I might never find a job that I love as much as my work with the students, and I would most certainly regret giving up a surefire path to a potential long-term career.  After being accustomed to so many children floating in and out of my life, I don’t think I would want things to change anyway.  I wouldn’t want to go work in an office with big boring adults after getting to be around children all day.  Children are much more interesting!

—G

 

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Playground Follies

My beautiful picture

After taking a week to convalesce from chronic illness, I went back to work at the school yesterday, and it felt great to return!  Six weeks of fighting viruses and a nasty staph infection that incubated in my body following a minor dermatological procedure left me completely burned out.  My supervisor and the principal at the school encouraged me to get the much needed rest, so I spent the week sleeping, watching Netflix, and guzzling Gatorade.  And writing of course.  One major change had occurred at the school during my recovery week.  The school added two low climbing walls to the Kindergarten and First Grade playground to give the students more activity options during recess.  Last week the students and teachers anxiously watched as they were built, and today was the climbing walls’ debut.  As soon as the First Graders hit the playground, they swarmed the walls, clambering rabidly over each other to be the first to the top.  It looked like the Wall of Jerusalem scene from World War Z, only miniaturized.   Thankfully, only a few children ended up with scrapes and most were completely happy being used by their classmates as human step stools.

  A tight knit group of students at the school has really got my number lately.  When I first started working they had me thinking that they were very sweet, quiet and innocent children with no ulterior motives to sabotage my career in education.  This year they have started several mini riots in the lunchroom, often using my simple conversational attempts as the basis for their incursions.  Most recently was what began as my asking the newest member of the group whether or not he had moved from the Philippines.  This led to the group leader succinctly and harshly analyzing my inability to distinguish the origins of Asian peoples simply by looking at them.  Somehow the group then swiftly transitioned into a political debate ending in the shaking of fists and chanting of “North Korea is our enemy!  North Korea is our enemy!”  as I frantically tried to get them to stop before my supervisor came back into the lunchroom.  All this happened within a matter of 60 seconds.  That is how quickly kids can turn on you.

My beautiful picture

There are so many unusual challenges encountered working in a school.  I literally have no idea what children are going to do to me when I walk through the doors every day, and every single day it is slightly different.  I have been almost barfed on (I turned and ran the other way, an indicator of my level of bravery), I have had to chase down runners and break up fist fights, I have even been doused in Go-Gurt, the worst of all fates.  But I love my job so much that when it was time to come back on Monday, I was completely psyched to see my kids again, all of them!  I don’t get paid a lot of money and I don’t receive compensation in other forms for my efforts.  But I did discover that there is a hidden benefit to working with children.  Those little boogers are swirling perpetual happiness creators, and the love they spread is just as infectious as their viruses.  I am going to have to remind myself this during cold and flu season.

—G