Moving On From a Classroom Aide

During elementary school, middle school, and parts of high school I had various classroom aides. For the most part they assisted with recess, P.E. class, navigating crowded hallways, and as I got older helping me lug those two ton textbooks. My classroom aide - regardless of whether they were my absolute favorites or not - came to know me well. They saw a side of me that my parents didn't get to see, that my teachers didn't get to help with, and saw me in a way that my friends did not. In other words there is an attachment between a student and his or her classroom aide, one that at the end of the school year can be difficult to move on from.

I've said it before but I'll say it again: I really lucked out with the quality of classroom aide's I had. Though I had my rough moments where the line between fulfilling needs and providing assistance got blurred - for the most part I didn't have any traumatizing horror experiences. With that said, when it was time for me to move on to another grade I always wondered "will Ms. K still be with me next year?" And you know you've got yourself a real keeper when classmates ask the same question - "will you still be around next year?" or "Will you be helping Sandy again next year too?"

At home my parents tended to worry over me every second of the day, they saw me at my worst and at my best. Among their many other responsibilities as parents, I saw them as the gatekeepers between What You Can Do vs What You Cannot Do. At school, my teachers had the responsibility of showing what exists through their patient explanations of how the world works. My friends were my peers and field-trip buddies on that adventure of understanding. My classroom aides, I saw as the people who stood by to make sure I knew what was possible. They were the folks who let me know that climbing ropes, going camping in the woods, and picking apples at the orchard were all activities that I could do alongside everyone else.
Some classroom aides stood in the background more frequently than others who, like helicopters, flew low and loudly above me during school hours. It depended on my age, the dynamics of the classroom, the grade level I was at, and of course whether or not I had a broken bone -- they were like chameleons that shifted in color and tone depending on the scene in the classroom, and even the student's mood that day.

When all is said and done, this position is by no means an easy job. If you take nothing else from this blog post, leave with this: much respect for all the classroom aide's and other one-on-one special education professionals!!

Every child and his or her aide will likely be a different relationship. Always there will be room for improvement, things that students will wish their aide next year will do the same, and other things that the student will wonder if the aide could just disappear during. As the school year comes to a close and whether your classroom aide will be staying or leaving, the above are some of the things that might be helpful to consider as we move on. Below I have listed a few more tips that I hope will be helpful!

Transitioning from One Aide to the Next:

  • It's always helpful to keep a list of awesome things & things that need improvement. For younger kids parents may not realize that when your child is telling you about his/her school day - notice the things they mention about their aide. Jot those down, they come in handy for I.E.P meetings or 504 meetings!
  • Sometimes for various budget/career/personal reasons a student's favorite classroom aide won't be transitioning with them to the next grade. This was the case with me when I moved to a whole new school in the 6th grade - going from elementary to middle school. I was incredibly saddened, but what made it easier was incorporating that transition with the natural moving on of everything else. The idea that my aide isn't a part of me but instead a part of the school and the classroom experience I had in elementary school. I was moving to a new school, a new grade, a new experience, new friends, and with that meant a new aide who would work with me. 
  • What about terrible experiences with an aide? Probably the student and the student's family is relieved that someone else will become the classroom aide. But that doesn't change the fact that when we move on we should take the time to thank them, to tell them what you enjoyed and what you wish could have been done differently. This isn't just helpful for the student but for the classroom aide as a professional!
  • If it's possible or if you think it would be helpful - see if your aide from last year could meet with the classroom aide that will be assigned next year. 
  • It may also be helpful for students to meet their aide one or two days before the start of a new school year! Already there needs to be much to adjust to when the bell rings in a new year, it might be an easier transition period if a student already has a familiar adult face in the crowd.   

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