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Title: First few days of work
Posted: August 26, 2010 (01:31 AM)
On Monday I started my job as a part-time Special Ed Instructional Assistant. The teacher is this really tan, bubbly blonde woman, and her students are six kindergartners with autism. My shift starts in the afternoon and my first hour overlaps with the last hour of the other assistant’s shift. During this time we supervise them during lunch and around the playground, and it is absolutely a two-person job for three reasons: 1) they play on a jungle gym with about thirty other students, 2) the school uniform makes it difficult to distinguish students from a distance, and 3) one of our students likes to run off without warning.

We return to the classroom afterward and the other assistant leaves. For the rest of the day I assist the teacher with keeping the children focused during educational activities. It has obviously been a really long time since I have been in kindergarten, so I had forgotten that education at this stage is basically playing. They play with blocks, sort objects by color and read children’s books about numbers. The teacher also runs slide show presentations and movies on a piece of a technology called a “Promethean” - a projector attached to a screen with point-and-click functionality. At the end of the day we take them to the buses.

Those three hours go by pretty quickly. The kids are adorable, but for legal purposes I probably shouldn’t write their names here, even though this makes it a little more difficult to write about them. Most of my attention goes to this one child who is much lower functioning than the rest. He is basically nonverbal at the moment (though we got him to say a word today) and it is extremely difficult to get him to participate in a group activity. He’s mostly interested in exploring the world around him on his own terms and he isn’t social at all. There’s another child who isn’t very social, though he’s actually very high-functioning and pretty independent. There are two others who are independent and very social. One seems a lot like a normal five-year-old boy, with the running around a lot and playing physically with other boys, while the other likes to give me a hard time and knows exactly what he’s doing when he does it. The last of the boys is a bit of a loner, but I think he’s just shy, whereas the first two boys I mentioned seem to have little or no interest in social relations.

But the most adorable of them all is the only girl in the class. She’s a little shy, a little stubborn, and a bit of a low-talker, but seeing her smile and hearing her laugh makes my day. At one point I was supervising her while she was trying to play with these building blocks. They could be put together, but doing so required a little bit of force, something not all five-year-olds have the strength for. After struggling for a while, she turned to me with that shy, innocent face of hers and said “no puedo...”

Earlier today I had an interview with another school district for the same kind of position, but at the middle or high school levels. I walked into a room with an interviewing panel, shook hands with the first interviewer, and then wordlessly exchanged glances with the second interviewer that said “oh, hey, I know you.” I knew her from the camps I worked for the past three summers, which is a very good thing, since all of the people in charge there like me a lot and trust me to do a good job. The interview itself went by just fine. I’m more worried about if they can find a shift that fits my schedule than their judgment of my ability to do the job, because the two districts are 30-40 minutes away and I don’t want to give up the other position.

honestgamerUser: honestgamer
Title: Re: First few days of work
Posted: August 26, 2010 (01:37 AM)
It's good to hear that things are (apparently) looking up for you so soon after you were looking forward to a depressing future. I spent time doing community service here in Oregon for a year. It involved just reading to kids, around second grade level, and it really was a rewarding experience. I'd do it again, time permitting. It felt like my time was really going somewhere productive.

zippdementiaUser: zippdementia
Title: Re: First few days of work
Posted: August 26, 2010 (09:35 AM)
That's interesting. I also work as an educational assistant to people with disabilities. However, I'm more of a coordinator: I help set up and run Camp Kiwanis, which you may have heard of if you work in the field.

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