Friday, October 23, 2009

Mr. Joel Explains It All

Fall has Fell here in central Illinois, and the leaves cover the sidewalk, making everything rather yellow and orange and pretty, but also getting stuck to the bottom of my shoes at 6:24 am when I am sprinting in the dark trying to catch my bus.

There have been a few queries from our readers as to what the actual nature of my job is, i.e., what is it that I actually freakin' do??!! (A uniquely American concern, as Henry James has taught us.)

Well, as a teacher's aide, it's my job to, um, aid the teacher. This entails, everything from making copies of handouts and running down to the attendance office for band-aids and hand sanitizer to grading papers and leading the class when she is busy. Most of my time, however, is spent patrolling the aisles of the classroom while Mrs. R teaches, helping the students with spelling questions, catching the kids who have fallen behind up, and saying over and over and over again, "Sit down please. Please sit down. Eyes on Mrs R, now, please sit down. Please be quiet. Put that away, it's time to read. Be quiet now. It's time to sit down. Sit down please. Please sit down." There's a lot of repetition.

Most of my day - actually, exactly 75% of my day - is spent in what is called "pull" classes, which are reading and math classes designed specifically for students identified as either learning disabled or cognitively impaired. These are generally smaller classes, with students who I know well and am learning how to assist on an individual level. However, these are also the classes that require the most time on social and disciplinary issues. These are the classes that I spend the most time in, and, therefore, I have the greatest amount of my sorgen invested in them. I get to be an active member of these classes, and I like being able to get into the "groove" that is provided by the repetition, that is, by knowing what we're doing each and every day and being able to work with the kids on such a regular basis that I can clearly observe the changes that are happening within them.

The rest of my day is spent following some of the students from these "pull" classes as they go to their science and social studies classes. These other classes are "standard", which means that they have at least 30 kids each and of varying skill levels. I am less involved with the execution of these classes, but rather spend most of my time helping the students from the "pull" classes stay abreast of their assignments and, basically, get everything done on time so they can pass. These periods are nice because I get exposure to students who are working at different levels and I get to learn cool things about ecosystems and Ancient Egypt.

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