Do your students know your aide’s name?
When you have to miss class, does the DRE scramble to come up with activities for your kids to do?
If you’re cringing with self-recognition, you’re not alone. I am your leader in the March of Ignoring Your Classroom Aide. And I should know better.
My first year of teaching, I had 42 kids in a class. I couldn’t send a student to the office until I had documented nine steps I’d taken in the disciplinary process beforehand, including a visit to the student’s home. I would have given anything to have an extra adult in the room to help me out.
So why is it so hard for me now to find ways to incorporate my aide into my class? We get along great, and she helps me “debrief” after class to talk about what worked and what didn’t. Still, I’m afraid the primary responsibilities I’ve given her are taking attendance and being the extra adult in the room with Safe Environment Training. I’d like for her role to become more of an apprentice, to the extent that she wants to become more involved.
Now, I am well aware that one of the benefits of being an aide versus the primary teacher in the room is that you can just show up and not have to plan ahead of time. So what I want is to find ways for her to have a greater leadership role in the classroom without placing an additional burden on her time outside of class. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
1. Aides can administer quizzes and tests. There’s no reason why I have to be the person saying, “Okay, do the best that you can, and remember what we talked about” while she is relegated to paper passer-outer. And, since I frequently have the kids grade their own quizzes, all my aide needs is an answer key and for me to be ready to clarify answers that the kids aren’t sure about. (I keep a class set of red pens and pass them out at the end of the quiz for the kids to grade with).
2. Aides can be the game show host or “Vanna” when it’s time for review. Games like Jeopardy or Challenger, especially once they’ve been played once with the kids, sort of run themselves. Kids seem to get more into it when there’s a comedy routine between the host and the scorekeeper as they’re playing. Again, all the aide needs is the answer key, and for me to be ready to jump in as needed.
3. Aides can be the primary teacher for a given topic. If she’s interested, I would love to have my aide be the lead teacher at times. It requires lots of advance notice, supplying her with the materials I’ve found useful in the past, and my own willingness to hand over the keys to the Mercedes that is my class.
There’s the real problem – I love teaching, love planning, and like the illusion of control. I’ve been a mentor teacher to student teachers in the past and enjoyed the process of helping new teachers hone their skills, but it was always hard to take myself out of the picture and let the student teacher shine. Yet treating our aides like apprentices is one of the best ways we can recruit new catechists. And, really, would you want to sit at the back of the room with the roll book and watch me blab away at teenagers for an hour every Wednesday?
Erm…don’t answer that. But do tell us – What’s your working relationship with your aide like? How involved is your aide, and how happy are you both with that arrangement?
Catechist Chat will be an ongoing series of posts for teachers in religious education programs. It is based on my personal experience and not on any statistical evidence of the effectiveness of my advice. Suscribe to my feed to follow along, and Caveat lector, which is Latin for “your mileage may vary.”
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