6 Weeks as a Middle School Instructional Aide

MISC

by Brandon Summers | October 11, 2016

Intro

After dropping Linear Algebra II in Fall 2015 after my dad had a stroke, I began considering my options for jobs that do not require a college degree. Being a full-time musician for the last five years, I had grown tired of the rigor, inconsistency– and quite frankly, I was over doing weddings and corporate events (but that’s where the money is). Substitute teaching seemed like the next logical step, and I had a few friends who were already in the game.

I started the application process to be a Clark County School District (CCSD) sub in November. However, the process of being hired/put in the system took several months. One would think that the process of hiring new substitute teachers would be quick, considering there’s a huge shortage and demand for instructors, but no. CCSD has a bad rap for being slow and inefficient when it comes to subs. By the time I was nearing the finish line for being on the substitute teacher roster, I had an offer to be a full-time middle school Instructional Aide at 100 Academy of Excellence (charter school). Yay! (The principal and my mom were friends. The principal used to babysit my brother and I. Thanks mom.)

School Begins

August arrived along with the two weeks of professional development. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by energetic teenagers for seven hours a day, five days a week. Initially I was situated to be with the math teacher, who was coincidentally a graduate of FVSU, the entire day. After two weeks of frequent, unannounced schedule changes, I was placed in the computer lab next door to be the Study Skills instructor. I’m sure you’re wondering what Study Skills is– I was wondering the same thing! Basically, the school needed to compensate for the shortage of middle school teachers, so they created a study hall period. There was little classwork and no homework for several weeks (due to the schedule changes), so it was a free period for students. It was teenage babysitting for me.

Students

I got a crash-course in classroom management and I learned over one hundred names in a few weeks. I also doubled as a hall monitor. I had the students trust and they respected me as a teacher. I genuinely liked the students, even the disruptive ones. I did the best I could, but it was utterly exhausting. I had to raise my voice often and yell way too much. Things got better as time went on, but at the end of each day, all I could do was go home and pass out.

Unfortunately, the disruptive students got way more attention from me than the well-behaved students. I always had to consciously remind myself to thank the quiet students for paying attention and staying focused. This is not to say that all the disruptive students were bad, but many had issues with self control and self awareness. I had to remind a lot of students that it is possible talk to your friends without yelling across the room. I also had to remind students that they are not to chit-chat while one of their peers has the floor or I’m talking.

Overall, most of the 6th and 7th graders were cool individuals. 8th graders were a whole ‘nother story. I did get a lot friction from students once the homework started rolling in and free time was over. Many wanted to argue that homework should be done at home, instead of during Study Skills. Their STAR test scores would suggest otherwise. Most of my students were a grade level or two behind in reading and math, and just seemed to not have good study habits. It was frustrating. I wondered how these students made it this far without intervention from a teacher, school, or parent. I had a few students break down and cry.

Reflections

I do not for one second regret the experience. I learned a lot in the eight short weeks I was employed by Imagine Schools/100 Academy of Excellence, and I would probably work there again– as a sub. Being a teacher is helluva job! IF YOU KNOW OR MEET A TEACHER, HUG THEM! They are probably stressed out. Teachers have to take on a great deal of responsibility, and all of the middle school teachers at 100 Academy took on more than they were compensated for. The middle school team was tight and everybody had each other’s back. It was we against the world, and unfortunately our greatest adversary was often administration– rather the decisions that administration made. I had a heart-to-heart with my younger brother, who is a middle school teacher in Minneapolis, about my decision to leave the school. He ultimately told me

“Administration is the reason that teachers leave schools, not the kids.”

I have to agree. My biggest gripe with the job was that myself and the other teachers were put in situations that were not conducive to the success of students or our sanity. From showing up to school with no middle school schedule, to frequent and announced schedule changes, impromptu after-school meetings, class room sizes of 30+ students, short lunches, no prep period (for the first two weeks), unrealistic deadlines, etc., it was too much. In my opinion, most of the issues I had with students were due to large classroom sizes. After I had an AWFUL day at school the day after my 29th birthday, I decided it was time to move on. I wrote a cordial letter to the Principal and Assistant Principal stating my grievances and put in my two weeks. I left 100 Academy of Excellence on good terms, and was told that the door is always open.

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