Growing up, I got to watch my Mum go to work every day with a smile on her face. It wasn’t until I was older that I realised, not everyone gets to experience that kind of joy going to work. It prompted me to ask her why she loved her job.
Mum was an Education Support EA working with students with additional needs both behavioural and physical. She would come home some days ecstatic because one of her students had successfully played socially at recess without getting distressed. Other days it was because another student, who previously wouldn’t look her in the eye, ran up and grabbed her cheeks to pull her in and tell her about his weekend. It was in her stories she explained to me why she loved her job.
What Mum loved about Education Support was the environment it created where uniqueness was celebrated and catered for. Students were able to come to a safe place where staff worked collaboratively to help them develop academically and socially. The differences that came with their additional needs were celebrated and utilised positively to help them thrive. However, like with any profession, Education Support presented Mum with some tough days as well.
Some days a slight change in routine meant that all learning went out the window and the day became about just getting the students through to the next session feeling safe, comfortable and supported. Some days, a child who had recently made leaps and bounds was hit with an obstacle that sent them 20 steps backwards. Other days, Mum was at the receiving end of behaviour caused through upset and frustration. Education Support can be a tough environment at times, but my Mum will be the first to tell you, no obstacle faced ever outweighed the reward of seeing a child succeed and progress despite all of their challenges.
When I started wanting to pursue a career in education, and later Education Support, Mum started telling me all the things she had learnt over the years. Things like the importance of understanding that everyone processes and communicates in varying ways and at varying speeds. She talked about the impact of positive wording and how it can influence a person’s mood and the way they choose to behave. But most importantly, Mum spoke about how she learnt to see just how capable we all are as human beings, regardless of our obstacles.
Needless to say, Education Support is a wonderful area to get into as both a Teacher and Education Assistant. Those who I know in the profession will tell you there is no more rewarding career than that of an Ed Support Educator. There are many opportunities in the field for those who wish to pursue it.
If you would like to gain knowledge and skills in the area, there are lot of PD sessions available (e.g. run by Autism associations). For Teachers, many universities offer a Post Graduate Certificate of Education (Special Education/Special Needs Learning) for those who wish to become qualified in the area. Education Assistants can enrol in courses such as a Certificate IV in Education Support which trains them in supporting students with additional needs.
At anzuk Education, we can help you transition into Education Support roles; providing mentoring and feedback with opportunities to gain experience in schools which are the right fit for you. Even without formal qualifications in Education Support, with the right attitude it can be a rewarding chance to expand your skills.
Another way to gain experience in Education Support is through volunteering. This is a great way to immerse yourself in the Ed Support world and see if it is the right environment for you. Once you have decided you wish to pursue a career in Education Support, there are many different certificates you can obtain in order to help support your students with disabilities. These include manual handling, PEG feeding and many more.
Almost any educator of students with additional needs will tell you they work in a crazy, wonderful and niche environment. My Mum will tell you that the wins come as fast and the obstacles. But she will also tell you that overcoming these and helping students progress is the most rewarding part of any Education Support worker’s job. I encourage any of you thinking about Ed Support to get involved and explore the area for yourself. This crazy, beautiful world may just surprise you.