Reflections of a teacher aide

Issue: Volume 99, Number 10

Posted: 9 June 2020
Reference #: 1HA8cv

Jess Galloway is a teacher aide at Waikanae School. Here she reflects on the joys and challenges of her job, and why the teacher aide pay equity settlement matters.

I am a teacher aide. I work in a school that feels like home. I care for children with an array of needs whom I love like my own. 

I currently earn less per hour than what I pay my teenage dog walker. I would do this labour of love for free if I had too. If you had spoken to me at any time in the last five years, I would have told you that it is not about the money. 

But today I realised something. It is about the money. It feels good to be validated. I am proud of what I do. It is about recognition. It’s about single mothers not having to take on second jobs, or work in supermarkets through the school holidays just to pay their rent.

It’s about understanding that this role takes more initiative than the business I previously owned. A teacher aide needs to find the perfect balance between not disrupting the equilibrium of another person’s classroom, while intuitively understanding when it’s necessary to intervene. 

It’s about taking a blood-stained tooth out of a half-eaten pear and carefully placing it in a ziplock bag to take home for the tooth fairy. 

It’s about feeding tubes and blood sugar tests. It’s about alternative pencils, PODDs, Jolly Phonics, Number Jacks and Go noodles. It’s about poop! So much of it. It’s about being kicked more times than you can count, all the while hoping the little legs kicking are not themselves hurting. 

It is about unconsciously scanning lunchboxes to see if there is enough food in them. 

It’s about distraction. Distracting until the cows come home. Singing songs about cows, counting cows. Spelling C-O-W. It’s about Pokemon cards, Minecraft worlds, it’s about playing Polly Pockets on the playground when mum is running late. 

It’s about knowing that the yellow plasters are better than the pink ones. It’s about running to the school office when seeing a parenting court order being violated at the school gate. 

It’s about supporting dedicated, incredible teachers. Teachers who come in early and leave late. Teachers who know the names, birthdays and favourite colours of all 24 students on the first day of the school year. 

It’s about compassion, confidentiality, trust, laughing out loud and crying with frustration. 

But most of all, above the daily chaos that you learn to love, it’s about the moment that you look down and notice that a nervous, sweaty little hand has grabbed your own for the very first time. It’s about being that safe space. Every single day.

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BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:18 am, 9 June 2020

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