Why teacher assistants are important to schools

May. 25, 2013 @ 04:54 AM

I’m trying to keep an open mind about the North Carolina Assembly’s proposed budget, but whoever inserted the part about eliminating teacher assistants in second and third grade is a ninny. I mean, they must have a nanny.

What I’m trying to say is this person has no idea how hard it is to oversee a gaggle of children.

Let me give you a small example: the one and only time I ever volunteered to cut the birthday cake at a child’s party. Because I’m a pushover with no ability to multitask, a chaotic scene instantly unfolded.

It started with a wave of children who clamored for the most elaborately frosted pieces, to which I stupidly complied without first checking to see if the birthday girl was among them. She wasn’t, and her wail rang out over the party. But it was too late. Another child was already cramming the edible centerpiece into her mouth.

The next onslaught made a grab for the “corner” pieces, while a third wheedled piteously for extra frosting. By then I was so irked with their parents that I started doling out slices big enough to provide a 48-hour sugar high.

What I’m getting at here is that every day our children’s teachers are faced with similar challenges and moments. Well, sort of. Anyway, I thought teacher assistants were one of the best developments in education in years.

We actually didn’t have assistants when I was a kid, which is probably why I spent a lot of time in the second grade banished to the teachers’ supply room. I mostly spent this time riffling through the different cupboards and nibbling on cubes of sugar that were meant for the teachers’ coffee.

It wasn’t my teacher’s fault I was so unruly. It was my mother’s.

I’m kidding; it was no one’s fault. I was just a “squeaky” wheel, that’s all. And in those days the squeaky wheel was simply taken off the skate and put on a shelf in the supply room until someone could get around to oiling it. Because really, it was still a serviceable wheel with no permanent defects. It just needed a little extra attention.

But with no other adult around to run interference, my second grade teacher rarely had the time to provide that additional focus. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the arrival of summer vacation I think I would have figured out how to make the coffee. I spent that much time in the supply room.

Since then, teachers have been given a deserved break with classroom assistants. I first discovered this when I visited Spindale Elementary three years before Sage was due to enter kindergarten. (Yes, I’m going to be a squeaky parent, too.) I was absolutely delighted to see there were aides in the different classrooms.

I hope it will stay that way. Teacher assistants are good for teachers and good for our children. And to any lawmaker advocating for their removal, I have a message: you try shepherding a large group of children by yourself sometime.

I can assure you it’s no piece of cake.


Stephanie Janard is a mother and full-time copywriter. She lives in Spindale. To reach Stephanie, email sjanard@msn.com