Full time teaching jobs in the state of New Jersey are hard to find. To get your foot in the door, you may substitute, or you may be able to get work as a full time or part time assistant. It may not seem like the job you wanted, but in this day and age, it’s something. I mean that word in two different ways.
The first is financial. It’s a way to pay the bills. That’s the obvious. The second way is, well, you do have a job as an educator. It may not be what you wanted, but still, think about how much you are doing. Not only are you helping the teachers, but you’re also helping the kids.
I have been a part-time teacher’s assistant for four full years. I’ve probably worked with about every teacher in my building. I don’t think I’ve worked with every student, but I do know a lot of them. Yes, it’s frustrating to either move around from classroom to classroom or not be at the head of the room teaching the lessons. However, being a teacher’s assistant is a role to value. Working with kids that need it the most is the job given to you. You’re the one taking on the responsibility of keeping the kids on task, modifying their work, and ultimately, paying attention to their needs. This may all be because it’s documented somewhere that the students themselves need it, but who helps uphold that part of their lives? You do.
I don’t think I’ve gone a single day in the past four years where I don’t get a hello from a student. It’s heartwarming. It means that I’ve done enough to make an impression on a student, sometimes without even realizing it. See for me, being an assistant doesn’t mean I’m locked to one group of students. I help everybody if I can. I pace around the classroom, looking to help. I throw myself into situations when necessary. I’m sure some people out there think that being an aide means that you get less pressure/no lesson plans/less work, but really, if you think that education is a breezy career no matter what role you play, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Being a teacher’s assistant is not a walk in the park. You must constantly be aware of students not paying attention, or who need notes scribbled down quickly before the Promethean board switches to the next slide. It’s nutty to think that your two eyes can be aware of so much, when there’s a ton of young students in the room either doing one thing or another. However, the key word in assistant is “assist.” We all know what that means, but in the classroom, assisting means to be on your toes as best you can. You never know what can happen!
When looking for a job in education, don’t be so quick to dismiss applying for a teacher’s assistant position. It may not have all the perks of a lead teacher, but it definitely has a weight to it that really is undervalued. It gets you into a classroom and your face becomes known to the school you may be at for the rest of your career. It may be, at many times, a thankless position. But, at the end of the day, the rewarding experience will far surpass everything else. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Logan J. Fowler is a teacher’s assistant at Eden Autism in Princeton, and is also a contributing writer for Pop-Break.com, Rush Order Tees, and Binge Media.