Every term time morning I put on my “grown up clothes” paste on make up because and I place a lanyard around my neck which is home to a door fob and a badge which has my full name and job title printed in comic sans, I drop my children off to their various term time locations and I head off for my days work.
I don’t like to wear shoes, least of all “proper ones” as I’m inexperienced in this field and make up makes my face itch, but I have discovered that it is a useful tool for gaining eye contact from those who don’t regularly offer it to others freely.
I am an accidental teaching assistant. I say accidental since I never had any intention of working with children, I struggled with the demands of three small people I happened to grow myself, I also started an NVQ in early years childcare and education when I was about 17 and decided a few months in that actually I didn’t much like children.
17 year old me had been chewed up, spat out and seriously failed by the education system, and the social care system, and pretty much every system I had ever encountered up until that point in my life.
I always liked school when I was small but not for the reasons a lot of primary aged children liked school. I liked school because it was safe, clean, happy and nurturing. These were not things that I had access to within my home life. As my school life progressed as did the neglect at home, by the time I was a teenager there had been many failed attempts by teachers to raise cause for concern but my mother was very convincing and I always achieved reasonably well at school. I wasn’t a problem child so I was left to flounder.
Eventually I left home; I also left school with a bad feeling. I felt let down and as if opportunities had been denied to me because I had been left to slip through the cracks. By the time I had grown my own babies I had to sit and rethink school all over again. I had fairly firmly decided that I would home school my children. I felt hostile towards the education system; I didn’t want them to slip through the cracks too.
My daughter turned out to be one of my biggest teachers, she loved to learn, I taught her to read and write, I taught her how to grow things and make things. We had elaborate maths lessons with penny jars emptied out all over the kitchen table with times tables written all over the kitchen cupboards. We created art and design classes with lining paper taped to the living room floor and huge bowls of paint and seemingly endless junk model cars but no matter how fun I made our lessons at home she so desperately wanted to go to school. With another baby on the way I enrolled her and that was the really the start of something.
We carried on with our extra curricular activities and she went to school, this gained the attention of staff within school and triggered many a “you should train to be a teacher” comment, Id think “me? A teacher? I wouldn’t know where to start..”
I continued to supplement education for the two baby boys that arrived after her in exactly the same way but as they got older the need for me to get a “real job” got greater. With the rising costs of childcare the only viable option I had sat as a single mum of three was to work in a school. But I didn’t like school, and I didn’t like children, I also didn’t think that I knew how to teach anybody anything.
I eventually started working in my own children’s school over the lunch time period but after a few weeks I was asked if id like to move somewhere else within the school and come in every morning to work with a child who needed additional support. Apparently I had gained a reputation for being very creative and also providing my own children with really great access to an additional education outside of school and this is what they were looking for to help support the needs of a particular child. I accepted the job, put on my grown up costume and very simply did what I do with my own children at home but within school.
Until I accidentally became a teaching assistant I hadn’t realized how much my everyday life had become about making every day things educational experiences. I also didn’t realize the huge value of the work I had put in with my own kids, this wasn’t just a job, it was an extension of my every day life but this way I got to make a difference to other children within the same education system that had failed me.
I consider myself lucky, the school that I work in practices mindfulness. The students do yoga, they all run a mile outside every single day and there is a great sense of building each other up to be the best that we can all be. Whether student or staff member the messages and support are the same and that creates a really great working and learning environment for everyone.
At the end of the day all children have a right to an education and not all children gain from the blanket sit in front of a whiteboard sort of way. The sessions that I deliver to the children that I get to work with are unconventional, we hula-hoop, garden, cook and create, but every single step of the way they are teaching me as much as I’m teaching them. They just don’t realize it because what we do is fun and they don’t realize how much they are helping me grow.
The road I have walked has been an interesting one that’s for sure but I am so grateful to be able to make a difference to the next generation even if it did come about accidentally.
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