BY: KARL FRIESEN, MIDDLE SCHOOL EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANT

A large part of being an Educational Assistant (EA) is working towards small every day successes.

For the past three years, I have worked with a student through grade 6, 7, and now in grade 8. Seeing students mature in the classroom is such a privilege.

I just finished my EA certificate the month before I joined ACMS in April 2016. On my first day of middle school, I was thrown into the deep-end and from that day forward, have continued learning how to be a better EA.

I was brought on to work one–on-one with a student in grade 6. My goals were simple; be with the student, go somewhere else if student becomes too distracting for the class environment, and go to the gym (when not in use) to use up excess energy. He had a very simple schedule.

Part of the class

This year, that same student who is now in grade 8, wants to be in the classroom participating and requesting which students he wants to hang out with by using their name. He uses his iPad to plan what activity he wants to do with them. It has been exciting to see is how his fellow students have chosen to interact with him. They have matured to the point of knowing how to interact with him. For example, in Physical Education (PE), when he participates, his classmates let him play to the best of his ability and celebrate his participation, even if it doesn’t benefit their team.

A growing tool kit

This student has grown so much since my first day.

Usually during morning break and lunch, he unwinds watching YouTube videos, but the other day he chose to communicate on his iPad and the app he would prefer to use. This little milestone shows how he is building his communication “tool kit,” expressing his wants in a way that is comprehensible to those around him and most importantly, his growing and diversifying free time activities.

Today, he followed a two-step instruction.

I needed to talk with a fellow staff member so I told him, “You can go to the resource room and read. Your books are there on the counter.” Which he accomplished. When I arrived during his grade 6 year, if he got out of the line of sight, there was no guarantee to know where he would go.

Now on good days, when he is able to work hard, we can trust him to go to a room and start a task independently. This shows his growing ability in his receptive communication skills but also his willingness to follow instructions.

I have also learned and grown since my first day.

I learned how to ask the right question so he can convey what is on his mind. I’ve learned from my fellow EA’s how to dialogue and come up with new ideas that will work with our students. 

So I guess we’ve both added new tools in our tool kit. And, isn’t that the way it should work?