Posted on 9/04/2021 by Dan Grace
We continue to look into the daily lives of our fascinating colleagues, this time by shining the spotlight on a SEND teaching assistant.
My alarm goes off…
At 6am each morning – though I’ll confess I don’t get up ‘properly’ then. I love porridge, so I’ll go downstairs and start it off, then nip back upstairs for twenty minutes’ more snoozing time! I like slow and relaxed mornings; they contrast very well to the fast-paced days ahead. I start out listening to Radio 4, then by 7:30 we’ve got Chris Evans on for the music. My door-to-door commute takes around an hour and it’s a simple train journey, so I’ve got time to ease myself into the day.
I take care of…
I’ve been working with Uniform Education for the past year or so, in the role of SEND teaching assistant at a local School. I’m responsible for the wellbeing and safety of the students through the day, helping to facilitate their learning and supporting them with their work.
The classes are usually small; there are usually around eight students, each with very diverse and individual needs. It’s often very tiring for one teacher to keep everybody focused and motivated, so I’m also there to help generate positive emotional energy for the teachers. It’s a fantastic job and very rewarding, though it also has its challenging moments. Keeping the students engaged takes a lot of energy, and I spend a lot of time managing hyperactive and confrontational personalities. It’s definitely a job that keeps you on your toes!
My first steps into education started…
I had always planned to be an actor, but after studying English Literature at Newcastle I ended up teaching English as a foreign language in South America. Later on I rekindled my passion for acting by going to drama school, then spent a year looking for work before I returned to education. These days I think teaching is a lot like acting – you constantly have to find new ways to communicate with people. I also hugely appreciate the security of teaching; there’s a solid structure and a genuine sense of community.
The first thing you do when you get to work?
I usually get to school 20 minutes before morning assembly, so I’ll go to the staff room and say hello. Then I make a drink and read a book for a while, to relax myself. I’m reading Anna Karenina at the moment, and it’s taking me a while!
My normal day looks like…
We begin with morning assembly, waiting for the whistle that tells us our day at school has begun. Then there’s tutor time and registration, lessons, a break, more lessons, then lunch. I run football sessions at lunchtime, which is great for getting the students involved. Football also teaches valuable lessons, such as how to lose gracefully. I think sport is invaluable in schools, and particularly in SEND schools. The day continues until 3:30pm, and then I’ll take a breather! I’ll work on admin or display boards until I leave at around 4pm.
My toughest moment?
I try not to be too much of a ‘bad cop’, but when you’re being shouted and sworn at by the students, it’s not pleasant. I hadn’t had much training on how to deal with being a new authority figure, and I began to doubt myself, but I was soon reassured. Banter, humour and a good working environment all help, and the most important thing is showing you care.
My proudest moment?
Seeing the students come out of their shell – something that really works on the football pitch.
What’s the best part of my job?
I like the classes in which the students can be mobile and expressive, such as PE and drama, it helps keep everyone engaged. The teachers are amazing; everybody cares so much, and the kids really benefit from their constant input. It feels very much like a family environment.
And the worst part?
It’s never nice when you feel any of the students don’t like you, or they show aggression. When that happens, you just have to keep turning up and showing you care.
What I would tell myself on my first day…
To stick with it! While you’ll have low days, you do see gradual improvements in the students’ moods and attitudes. These improvements don’t happen in a day or a week. For me, SEND is all-or-nothing. It’s not for everybody, but if it’s for you, you soon become attached, you want to help, and you want to keep your energy up. Let’s just say I earn my evening flop on the sofa!
In my spare time…
I used to do a lot of yoga, but these days it’s more about walking or gardening. Other than that, I just relax.