Tag Archives: teachers aide

when what you ‘don’t say’ means the most…

This week in NSW schools it is SASS (School Administrative and Support Staff) Appreciation Week. 

At the Monday morning assembly I managed to catch the presentation by students to our school’s SAS staff and enjoyed hearing them share their insights – all written by the kids themselves”.  I have to admit though, I was perhaps most moved by what they “didn’t say”.

white background with 5 gerbera flowers pink, red, coral, orange and yellow with green stems, green text thanks coming out of the stemOur SAS team comprises administrative staff, learning support officers (teachers aides/paraprofessionals), groundsmen, IT support etc).  Each team member was presented with a small certificate of appreciation, a beautiful gerbera flower and a small speech from different students telling them why they were appreciated.  

There were so many reasons given as to why the kids want to thank them… from getting balls of the roof to preparing newsletters, looking after the office, helping them know where to play, applying band-aids or just having a ‘chat’.  

What struck me when the classroom Learning Support Officers (LSOs/teachers’ aides/paras) were being thanked is that there was no suggestion they were there for any ‘specific or special’ student.  They were considered to be in the classroom for ALL students.  There was no singling out of who they helped and why.

This is exactly how learning support should happen in classrooms.  All students, regardless of any diagnosis or funding, should be feeling supported by the presence of an additional adult in the classroom.  They shouldn’t feel, for example that the adult is, say, “Mac’s aide”.  Sure, Mac’s high physical support needs mean he will get more support in some areas… but I love that the students recognise the aide is there for ‘all of them’.  And I love that Mac (or any student in the school who warrants funded support) isn’t identified as being ‘a kid with an adult attached’ to them.

We often reflect on how well the school has embraced and enhanced the idea of natural supports and recognising peers play a vital role in supporting one another.  I love seeing the adults who come into the school as a result of funding for identified students aren’t singled out for that purpose once they get there.

Well done everyone!


Filed under Accessing the Curriculum, Inclusion... straight up!

risky business

It is very much a matter of trust and it seems Mac is trying to work out just how far he should go with his trust for his new teacher’s aides.

He has been working really well with his Mon/Tue Aide… the divine “Ms M” – they do seem to have a great rapport and likely a very good ‘learning team’ in the making.

He does fill her in on some of his secrets but he must have been feeling a little wary about the whole situation.

So he asked her on Monday if …

“you going to coffee shop too” [sic]

Ms M wasn’t sure what this meant or where it was coming from.

Yes, she likes coffee shops…
Sure, she would love to go for coffee…

It wasn’t until we were chatting about how R had come for afternoon tea and how we see her often enough at our/her coffee shop (where she works full time now) but how Mac wasn’t truly believing she would still be in his life and had been ‘smarting a little from his loss’.

Ah-ha… yes… it all became clear.

Mac was checking to see if “Ms M” was going to ‘run off and join the coffee shop too’, checking to see if he should invest too much trust in her, checking to see if he might get ‘hurt’ again.

It actually makes me a little sad to think about the emotions he must be going through to feel the need to check this out and I wish I could protect him from that kind of hurt.

But then it makes me feel glad that even as a seven year old he is mature enough to actually ask the ‘tough question’ to help him protect himself if necessary.

I just hope I can help him find the balance in friendship, trust, resilience and potential loss around that ‘paid to care / personal assistant’ role over which he (we) will essentially have no control for his entire school career.

I hope the school and their ‘rostering choices’ don’t stop Mac from allowing himself to fully engage with his learning support team, if he wants to, out of a fear of being hurt.

It is always a risky business when you give of yourself – particularly coming from his position of relative vulnerability.

I guess we need to continue to check in with him, check how he is going and make sure he is feeling OK with things going on around him.

He did say he was ‘a bit worried’ Ms M might decide to leave when I talked to him about it later that day. Tonight I was able to let him know I spoke to the owner of the coffee shop and he has advised that ‘under no circumstances is he going to offer ‘Ms M’ a job’.    Phew!


Filed under the big picture

the curious case of the missing ‘R’

Mac’s wonderful aide of 15 months ‘R’ wasn’t able to return to the role this year.  Sadly reduced hours & lack of job security for her just couldn’t meet her needs to support her own family.  That’s the downside for ‘Learning Support Officers’ – jobs they love, jobs they are great at, but jobs that just aren’t that secure.

Mac will miss ‘R’ incredibly  as she will him.  But, he has told us he will “work hard for anyone”.  When Shawn asked him if ‘R’ was in his class after Day 2 he actually gave a sad face – not something that happens very often.  Physically that kind of facial expression is difficult for Mac, so it was impressive to see him manage it when he actually felt the emotion Shawn’s question evoked.  That being said, Mac is nothing if not resilient – so I think he will be OK.

The upside is that R will likely stay involved in Mac’s life ‘outside of school’.  She has made that very important transition from paid support to friend.  This is an important shift  – natural supports are far more valuable than any paid support… ever.

A goal is for Mac is to see his life filled with people who “CARE to CARE” as opposed to those “PAID to CARE”.

Thank you ‘R’ for sharing the most amazing year and a bit with us – what a blast….  and absolutely, we’ll see you ’round.


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Filed under friends, Inclusion... straight up!, the big picture