Four Ways to Survive and Thrive as an Education Assistant

American author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said, “You can get everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” This quote could be the mantra of education assistants. For those who serve in this occupation, life becomes fulfilling beyond measure through helping people with a range of mental, emotional, physical and behavioural challenges have the kind of life they want.

The joy of helping someone learn a skill they thought was out of reach is the real reward for many education assistants. This also applies to anyone thinking of taking an Education Assistant program, Dyslexia training course, Therapeutic Recreation course, Autism course or Geriatric Certificate program. An education in human services allows you to enrich the lives of others by helping them grow and learn. You are likely strongly focused on integration approaches, seeing baby-steps as huge accomplishments and taking life’s challenges in stride.

As a leading provider of Education Assistant training, Ashton College has heard from experienced instructors, graduates and students in practicums about the skills that help them not only survive, but thrive, in their chosen career. We have selected four key pieces of advice to help you create great success for yourself, and those you assist, as you pursue this highly sought-after occupation.

Have a Solid Sense of Humour

Education Assistants experience moments that may not appear to be fun or funny. When you assumed a life skill had been learned and absorbed by a student and it suddenly goes absent from their repertoire or a student with behavioural challenges has a massive outburst, it can be natural to lose both your perspective and your sense of humour.

Instead, it is important to remember that these situations are just moments in time. Find the positives in what is happening. Is it that the student is showing they are comfortable enough to express themselves around you? Are they communicating in a new way? More often than not, there will be little things that make the situation amusing if you look for them. Maybe the paint splatter is in a ridiculous pattern that makes you laugh. Perhaps your student used a phrase that gives you an internal giggle. Look for the unexpected humour where you can.

Be Organized, But Accept That Things Change

Some individuals think that being organized means having a rigid schedule and sticking to it no matter what. Education Assistants have learned that having a schedule is essential, but along with it must be an acceptance of flexibility. If something exceptional comes up that throws the day completely off your plan, remember that this is simply part of the job – adapting to change and new situations.

Be a Great Partner

As you know, Education Assistants often work within a more formalized school environment where they share/overlap/append the duties of a teacher. This can create some complexity as each education environment will have a different format for how teachers and education assistants work together.

Add to that, each teacher and education assistant will have their own preferred ways of working and doing things. While an education assistant is generally assigned to one or more individuals within a class environment, they are also in the class to help the teacher with classroom management.

Wherever possible, strive to be a good partner with the teacher. Not only will this ensure a positive working relationship, but it will also create a much more harmonious classroom that students will pick up on. This, in turn, will give both the teacher and the education assistant the ability to consider different and better ways to serve the classroom together.

Get to Know All The Students in Addition to Those You Work with Directly

As mentioned above, education assistants are usually assigned to one or more students within a traditional class. However, as an education assistant, serving those students also comes from getting to know the class. There may be ways to help other students that will benefit the environment. See the classroom as a whole and find ways to improve that ecosystem while also seeing the individuals and their unique needs.