Whooppee! School is finally out. I love my job, I really do, but, BOY! was I ready for school to be out. I need a break. As a "special ed" teaching assistant, I work with he kids with the learning problems, obviously, but I also work with the kids with emotional problems, and the ones that are mildly, mentally handicapped. Usually this vast group of kids are where most dicipline problems stem from. So, as the only man in the "sp. ed" department, I get to deal with the guys.
I pull guys out and discuss why they shouldn't wear their pants so low that we can see their "crack problem." I also get to discuss personal hygiene and suggest that they shower more often, and put on clean clothes from the skin out daily. I also pass out deodarant to some of the guys, as well as toothpaste and tic-tacs. So you see that my job is not just helping educate these students, but being a surrogate parent to them for 7 1/2 hours a day 5 days a week.
On top of that, I have to read tests aloud to most of my students. They have several learning-skill levels, so I have to read slow enough that the slower kids can keep up. When giving a math test, I often have to talk an individual student thru a problem, reminding him/her of the process used and then give them time to complete each problem. I repeat questions for those students who missed one or needs to think time.
Daily, I am responsible for maintaining order and control chaos two periods a day in a "guided study hall" situation. Bear in mind that students come and go at the classroom teacher's discretion, from 6th,7th, and 8th grades. They can come for help with any subject. So all of the teaching assistants need to be well versed in all subjects for all 3 grades. I don't have a problem with most things, but pre-algebra gives me fits. I just don't understand all the formulas, theroms (or is that geometry?) and stuff. I took one math class in college, and that was a methods class for elementary teachers! Most teachers are very understanding, but some of the ones who are new, will not give us teacher's manuals or answer keys. They are "afraid" we might give a kid an answer. WHAT??? Do they think I don't know how to do my job.
The last few days of school, it was decided that the "Resource Room" as our study hall area is called, needed to be moved into a different classroom next school year. So, we had to pack up everything in boxes, mark it to be moved, mark our desks and supplies, all furniture that goes with us so the janitors can make the move this summer. Of course, we are considered hourly employees who only get paid for the hours that the students are in the building, so we had do all this while trying to stay on "finals" schedule. While the teachers get an extra day paid to do this, we do not.
So, all this being said, I need a break. But come August, will I be ready to go back and face the "troops?" You bet. After spending over 30 years in the business world, and taking this job late in my life as a second career, I feel like I am making a difference in kid's lives. Friday night I watched students walk across the stage and graduate. These were students that I started out with when they were in the 6th grade. I have watched them grow into fine young people. They still come to my room and chat, and to share their lives with me. After the graduation ceremony, the handshakes and hugs I received made the job I do, and sometimes complain about, all worthwhile. I feel that in some small way I may have made a difference in someone's life. If so, my life is full, and I know that I am where I belong.