Saturday, March 1, 2014

Life as a Paraprofessional vs Life as a Teacher: Part 1

hyena reality


Eventually, I will write a lovely end-of-the-year post (probably entitled something original like: "What I Learned as a First-Year Teacher"), but this morning, I want to write about something a little bit different.

The differences between my life as a paraprofessional (teacher assistant) and my life as a teacher .

I'm sure many of you are aware that I began my life as an educator, not in the classroom, but in a lunchroom. After I had home schooled The Boy and Baby Girl for a couple of years, it became apparent that it wasn't working out any more and some changes needed to be made in our family. So, on that fateful day in November, I dropped both of the kiddos off at the Little Elementary School Around the Corner, The Boy, a 4th grader and Baby Girl, a 1st grader, while I headed off to work in the school cafeteria. 

As a substitute cafeteria worker, filling in for the ladies who had to be out for whatever reason at various schools around my city, I had the opportunity to work with a lot of kids. (I realize that I didn't technically "work" with the kids. I fed them breakfast and lunch. But when you connect with kids, you connect with kids. It doesn't matter in which capacity it's done. It just is.) In every school I worked, I adored the kids. It didn't matter if it was a pre-k center or the elementary school - I loved it.

When you wake up in the early morning hours to prepare a meal for 600 students, you tend to use that time to catch up with your co-workers (mainly, to stay awake!). One day, the ladies were telling me about a job I could do which would bank me more of a steady (and larger) income. 

After I took the exam, I was ready to began applying. As luck would have it (as if!), there was a paraprofessional  position opening up at the middle school. And also as luck would have it, the woman I went to church with also worked there as a paraprofessional. And as luck would have it, this lady is a born sales person. When she gets an idea in her mind, she works it and works it hard. 

So, she told me about the position and told me where I needed to go to apply. As a stay at home mom for the past 10 years, I didn't have any so-called "references" of which to speak, so I had to rely on "character references": people who knew me and could vouch for my character. Not only did she vouch for my character, she also put my name front-and-center where ever she went. (I owe everything to her; I really do.)

On that fateful day, I received a phone call for an interview. My friend said she would watch The Boy and Baby Girl while I went. So I went. And it was intimidating. And I was honest. But I was willing and as I was driving to my friend's house contemplating the whirlwind interview, the principal was calling my friend and my character references. He liked what he heard, apparently, because I received a call an hour after I left the school, informing me that I had gotten the position!

Stay tuned for Part 2.

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