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By: Ronda PaynePublished On: December 11, 2019
There’s no doubt that being a teacher takes a lot of energy and skills, but the truth is, the average teacher can’t manage a conventional classroom while also taking care of the unique requirements of special needs students. It’s too much for only one individual to accomplish given today’s class sizes and learning objectives. This is the main reason why an education assistant diploma will always be a great investment for those wanting to work in the field of education.
As long as there is a requirement for education assistants in public school systems, private schools, tutoring service offerings, respite care and specific disability programs, individuals involved in education are sure to see a healthy, growing job market. This is great news if you’ve been considering working in this field and/or pursuing an education assistant diploma.
Standard classroom teachers are already short on time. In addition to not having time to manage all of their day-to-day classroom tasks along with the tasks special needs students require, most teachers don’t have the advanced education an education assistant diploma offers. Where a regular classroom teacher is focused on delivering the curriculum, keeping students engaged and monitoring learning, one element lacking is the training on how various types of special needs students learn. The in-depth knowledge that comes from an education assistant diploma drills down into various types of disabilities and explains how students with those disabilities may respond, not to mention how they can be helped to excel in the classroom.
This is an essential element of teaching special needs individuals because each student will need tasks presented in different ways in order to create a better chance of success. A standard classroom teacher does this to a certain degree for their conventional students, but they lack the time to be able to stay focused on a one-on-one or smaller group learning environment throughout a standard day given the overall classroom demands.
Education assistants find themselves working in a wide range of teaching environments. Some are more conventional like the public or private school system where they will be taking the lessons established by the standard classroom teacher and modifying them to fit the learning capacity of their special needs students. This requires building on learning from an education assistant diploma program.
For example, not only might a special needs education assistant need to consider how a child with Autism responds when presented with a question or challenge (such as subtracting one amount from the other to determine what change should be given on a purchase), they must also take into account how that individual reacts when learning something new in a classroom environment, or when taking on something they may find uncomfortable. Every child in an education environment is an individual and an education assistant needs to spend time with special needs students to determine their strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes to modify educational approaches to help them be successful in their education.
Other teaching environments are less formal, such as those in a respite care setting where education assistants are focused on an individual’s personal care more than their formal education. There is always a learning process, but in this case, the learning might be around various life skills, such as learning to tie shoes, understanding how to use technology to contact loved ones or appreciating music.
Tutoring is another less formal environment, but one that is absolutely focused on the specifics of a formal educational program and the desired outcomes. In this case, an education assistant may find themselves working in a school building outside of regular school hours with one individual or a small group. They may also be teaching concepts in an alternative location, such as a tutoring organization’s office, or they could be delivering educational assistance in an individual’s home environment. Generally, different education assistants focus on one or two traditional curriculum subjects that are their specialties. Depending on the needs of each student, they will present the questions and challenges in various ways.
Another opportunity is working with a specific disability organization to deliver educational programs for their members and clients. This could be something like the Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of British Columbia when they offer programs to assist individuals with the condition, and their families, in learning ways to navigate day-to-day life. The Autism Society of BC offers transition planning resources and tools and an education assistant might be involved in teaching some elements of these to a family approaching a transition in their lives. Counselling is offered by the Lower Mainland Down Syndrome Society and programs like child play therapy, therapeutic play and behavioural, social or academic concerns may involve a special education assistant.
If you are considering taking an education assistant program it’s important to look for a few things that will allow you to excel in the job once you graduate. Find a program that ensures, upon graduation, you will:
– Have an understanding of the most prevalent disabilities;
– Understand and can research strategies to assist those with special needs in their education pursuits;
– Gain practical experience in working in various settings with special needs individuals;
– Appreciate the individual and the disability as a complex whole;
– Assess and problem-solve various disability cases.
As the goal to create a more integrated society that brings together people of all ages, stages and abilities grows, the need for education assistants will also increase. For those who are interested in the field and enjoy working with others to succeed, working as an education assistant can bring great amounts of satisfaction and a surprisingly wide range of career opportunities.