Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Journey Of A Thousand Miles Begins With A Single Step....

A colleague of mine has a special education inclusion teaching assistant working at her school that simply put isn't very good.  My experience with TAs is that, like any other position, the talent tends to be hit or miss.  I have worked with some who are better than our certified teachers and others who need their own life IEP.  'Sapphire' definitely fell into the latter.

Shit travels downhill.  In this case, downhill refers to years of experience.  As a result, new teachers always got stuck with Sapphire.  Sapphire simply did not understand any of the basics of her role and too often caused more problems than solutions.  The teachers who got stuck with her often wound up having to babysit her in addition to the kids she was supposed to be helping manage.

As is the case every year, the teacher working with Sapphire quickly discovered her incompetence.  The issues didn't improve with time (they never do) and subtle hints didn't work either.  The teacher talked with the principal about her frustrations and the principal recommended that the teacher explicitly explain what it was that Sapphire needed to be doing in order to best support the classroom.

The next day the teacher explained to Sapphire that she wanted her to be constantly moving around the room making sure students were on task with their work.  "You want me to just walk around all day?"  The teacher, thinking this represented progress told her 'yes.'  She obviously didn't know what 'explicit' meant....

Sapphire spent the entire morning walking in a large square as if she was in some sort county fair cake walk or a game of Duck-Duck-Goose (no aisles).  At lunch she sat by herself crying.  After lunch she went back to the classroom and continued to bizarre walk slow around the perimeter of the students while the teacher did her thing.

Sapphire was practically hysterical as she left that day.  Finally, someone asked her what was wrong (there's a sucker in every crowd).  "They told me I have do laps all day long!"

And this folks, is the person who is employed and paid to assist closing the gap with our neediest students.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid....


  1. Oh my goodness, I have had a TA soooo like that, it is nightmarish! I particularly identify with the "need their own life IEP" description. Seriously, these people are allowed into education, with our most needy populations??? Oh help us all.

  2. I guessed that there would be many who identified with having a lousy TA. It's real feast or famine with support staff I've learned.... I wish you good luck in your journey!

  3. Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles..By PSY 201 Week 9