39 comments on “Reality check

  1. It is like you are working in my classroom….a special class for students with ASD. Thank you for writing this accurate and truthful piece. Many people will always think that it is “all about the money”. Until they have spent some time in your shoes, they have no idea what your job entails. As a spec Ed teacher, I couldn’t survive without my two EAs….

    • It’s truly a team effort. I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing DECEs, teachers and other EAs and have always believed we were there for the same reasons. And money was not it. Thanks for your support.

  2. Pingback: Reality check | 2mommiesof3

  3. Well said! As a fellow EA I thank you from the bottom of my heart and on the behalf of the 55000 education workers represented by CUPE. You put our reality into words and breathed life into our struggles! Solidarity with you sister! Ms Wynne, Ms Sandals, this is one of the many hard working, ethical women and men who consistently put our students first. It is unfortunate that the government and trustee groups can’t do the same!

  4. Well said Paula, I am also a child and youth worker in the education system and your comments strike home with not only myself but every other education support worker in our field. The higher ups and the politicians have NO IDEA what our jobs entail. We care for and often provide basic necessities such as food and clothing to some of our more unfortunate students. Our jobs often transcend the typical education process to include counselling and nurturing students in crisis. We provide an invaluable service to these young people that deserves to be not only recognized but celebrated and in a perfect scenario compensated for. Compensation is not why we ultimately do the work we do as our bottom line clearly indicates. We care about people, children and see the benefit that our intervention can make in their lives. Thank you for calling attention to our situation, I hope that it will allow those very people the politicians would like to turn against us to see us in a different, kinder light.

    • It is challenging to do the work but more so when that work is misunderstood and undervalued in every sense of the word. Thank you for your comments and for the work you do everyday.

  5. Well said! If only the minister of education does the right thing!! I am also an Educational Assistant working with ASD students. Your description of our daily struggles is right on. We go above and beyond every day and make a world of difference in these most vulnerable students lives. Its time we were paid for all we do!

    • Thanks. Hoping against hope that what we don’t see in the days ahead is a vilification of education workers but rather understanding from the public that unions have to take a stand.

  6. I am a classroom teacher (grade 7/8), and although my class of 30 includes many students with special needs, I do not receive any EA time, due to the cost. Much of my time is spent with those students, who need constant support to succeed. Several are currently working 5 grades below their age group. This requirement leaves my other students with substantially less teacher time than was previously the norm. My colleague (grade 5/6) has 11 students with special needs (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder, etc.) plus 15 regular needs students, and receives EA support only until 10:30 am. The difference in her class during that 100 minute block tells the tale. EAs are vital to the learning of both the special needs students and their peers with regular needs (who receive more teacher time if an EA is present in the room). If the powers that make the decisions want all children to be included in regular classes, they need to include EAs, as well. They also need to pay them according to their expertise and work load, which is certainly far from the truth right now.

    • Thank you for sharing your perspective. It is important for student success that we are in the classroom, and, as you point out that means the success of all students.

    • Thank you for acknowledging our (EA’s) relevance in all classrooms, and how we are grossly underpaid. Our expertise is not respected as it should be. I have personally added to my repertoire, but rather than being compensated for my higher education, I get used and abused for the boards benefit. I still have no contract, and make less than $20/hour. I hope now is the time that we finally get the attention from our fellow Ontarian’s, and they finally realize the devastating effects our government is having on our children’s education.

  7. Thank you for sharing!! I would also like to point out that we only get 30 minutes for lunch with no break.

    • As a mother of two adults, I know the situation facing young people in the job market. It is a terrible situation to come out of school and not be able to find work. At the same time, I would not want my children or their peers to have to do a job where they are hurt doing their job, cannot work and are not paid while they recover. I would not want them to have to continue to struggle to pay their bills after years of working. The economy of Ontario is in trouble; the young, unemployed people are not to blame and they need the government to be cognizant of their needs as well. By pointing out the realities of work within the school systems I did not intend to negate the plight of people unable to find work. This piece was intended to try to bring some understanding to the realities faced by education workers.

      • And that is what I got out of reading this? Nothing about not being thankful to have a job!! All I say is that I hope Nikki’s kids or grandkids don’t need an EA some day!! Your article is 100% spot on. I have dealt with all your examples. I have been an EA for over 30 years and I have been at the top of my pay scale since year 4!!!!!!!!!!! Unbelievable. We need to get word out so the kids don’t lose out! They are the ones that will ultimately pay in the end!

      • Annette – thank you for holding fast in the field for 30+ years. Imagine all the lives you’ve impacted. I agree that we need people to understand our role so that they understand our fight.

  8. Thank you for so eloquently expressing what many educational support workers continue to feel each and every day. I wish parents were required to spend time in their child’s classroom and witness what is happening to the “public” education system. I firmly believe we being asked to support students who’s needs cannot be met and are not being address adequately in the “education” system. We are doing a fantastic job of trying, within the confines of the Government’s mandate, but to the determent of all students. ALL students deserve to be respected and supported in their educational endeavours, not just those with identifiable disabilities. We need to take a long hard look at what support should “look” like and unfortunately I don’t feel that will happen until those utilizing the system, (parents and students) are willing to stand up and say, “Hey, what about ME?”
    A local business man in our community recently ask me why he can’t find students to work for him who are responsible, reliable, literate, can make proper change, can communicate appropriately with the public etc. Something is drastically wrong with our “public” education system.

    • One place to start looking would be funding formulas as they are not sufficient. I believe that students needs can be met and within the education system; they cannot be met with current funding levels and that does make the impact system wide.

      • Thanks for your reply, Paula. Perhaps I need to clarify… I’m referring to students who’s needs cannot be address adequately within the school system. Students who present with severe psychological issues, who exhibit major behavioural concerns and who physically endanger fellow students and staff are being placed within the public education sector, and as young as kindergarten! As an Educational Support professional with 38 years of experience, I do not feel that I have the expertise required to support some these students. I am not a Psychologist. I believe their needs would be better address in a different milieu, not within the public schools. Perhaps lobbying the Government to create and fund more services for children with mental illness would ensure their core needs are being addressed. Access to such services is limited, if not nonexistent in our geographical area and I feel quite discouraged that these children are being supported but not at a level they need.

      • Thanks for clarifying. I agree that mental health issues are not supported or addressed fully within the system. I, like you, have felt out of my depth in situations and wished for more resources for students, families and staff.

  9. Thank you so very much for writing this! As an EA I come home exhausted and frustrated with the way special education is looked at. I too have been hurt, disrespected on the job and many times brushed it under the rug in fear of being “in trouble”.
    My friends and family have asked me “why do you stay”- we stay because of the kids. Education was NOT supposed to be like this!
    The pay is an absolute joke When you consider what we do and are subjected too!

  10. I have another comment to add…..I have to wonder, the Director of Education makes over $250,000 a year, so I would think the Minister of Education would actually make more than $130.000??? All VP’s and Principals make over $110,000 a year.

    • Yes. I recently saw the Sunshine List and that prompted today’s post. I had to not focus on the numbers solely because it is hard to think about that in relation to the underfunded aspects of education and other social services.

  11. I work as a secretary in an elementary school with no vice principal. I start at 7:30 and finish between 5 and 5:30..no break and have maybe 15 minutes for lunch. I am at the top of my pay grade and haven’t seen a raise in a while. I buy stuff out of my pocket every week and take work home. People do not understand the workload we deal with. The government doesn’t get 32 kids in full day kindergarten class is too crowded..they just see it as happy parents with free baby sitting. We should not be denied a salary increase due to fiscal mismanagement by the province. We are not even asking for a raise or benefits. We want adequate staffing to be able to do our jobs. .aka to stop the free unpaid overtime.

    • Ann thank you so much for sharing your reality…it’s school wide and system wide. Everyone working for and with students need recognition for the ways they support learning.

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