Classful

Whatever the terminology, these colleagues often go above and beyond the call of duty to support both teachers and students, and perhaps there’s a simpler term we could adopt for them instead: heroes!

Depending on the structure of the school you work in, you might have support workers known as one of the following:
  • Teacher Aide
  • Instructional Assistant
  • Paraprofessional
  • Education Assistant
  • Teaching Assistant

Teacher aides do amazing things every single day. On any given morning, it’s not unusual to witness assistants meeting and greeting students with a friendly smile and a hug. Their schedules are often much more grueling and complicated than those of teachers. Many aides move between multiple grade levels every day without missing a single beat.

What a difference an aide makes

You might not realize it, but teacher aides can act as the difference between failure and success. To look at things more positively, teacher aides help transform ordinary schools into exceptional ones.

In addition to providing invaluable support for students, they can often be found spending hour upon hour laminating and cutting out learning materials, figuring out how to repair broken-down copy machines, decorating classrooms with student’s artwork and generally being the backbone of everyday school life. The work of an aide can also work in tandem with the instructions of a teacher, helping to back-up or extend their directions. Some even ensure that students are eating a full meal before rushing out to the playground to play – and for children from underprivileged backgrounds, nutrition in school is invaluable.

Wherever you go, teacher aides are there. Whether it’s giving a little one-on-one time to a child who is struggling to keep up with the curriculum to becoming a metaphorical (and sometimes literal) punchbag for frustrated students who can’t quite get the hang of the latest topic in math class, these people are truly indispensable. And perhaps it’s about time we gave these vital workers the respect and recognition that they truly deserve.

Let’s hear it for aides

After all, we ask these amazing people to provide us with so much, and to give us a great deal of their time. Most teacher aides are required to undertake regular certification testing and undergo updated training – much of which takes place after-hours. We also have a tendency to expect them to do absolutely everything within the same buildings we work in – including things many teachers will avoid as not my problem or a task for somebody else.

If you consider today’s teachers to be underpaid (and let’s face it, you’d be right: we most definitely are) then perhaps it’s time to also spare a thought for paraprofessionals. These hardworking men and women make a fraction of what a fully qualified teacher makes in a year, yet they are routinely asked to do every task under the sun, and then some. Like teaching, being a teacher’s aide is most definitely a vocation – and we should celebrate the hard work undertaken by these incredible people.

Students know

It’s often the case that the only people who recognizes paraprofessionals for their efforts are the students themselves. However, now’s the time to make an effort to recognize the contributions these skilled workers make to schools across the country.

They build connections with the young persons within our buildings, they routinely stay late, and they’re happy to undertake everything from administrative tasks and cleaning work with a smile. While we might get to pat ourselves on the back during Teacher Appreciation Week, perhaps it’s time we all – teachers, administrators, parents and students alike – also took the time to appreciate teacher aides for the service they provide. Not just for one day out of the year, but for every single day these people put the work in.

Teacher aides are, along with teachers, the lifeblood of the education industry. Just try and imagine how much more difficult your teaching job would be without this fantastic support network around you – and be appreciative for the support they offer.

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