A 25+ year EA weighs in

Why are Standards of Practice for EA Training Important? An EA Perspective

I started as an EA in 1994 in Surrey.  At that time, we were called Teacher Assistants.  Many TAs in the early 90s had no formal training.  I enrolled at Kwantlen College and did the two-year part-time course.  Many districts started requiring new hires to have taken similar training and the TAs already hired were not affected by the new requirements.  The scope of the position and the number of students EAs support have grown exponentially since then. 

As the number of EAs increased over the years, districts could not keep up with hiring enough trained EAs.  It became harder to work 25-30 hours a week and get by so less people considered an EA as a possible career choice.  But instead of looking to why it was harder to attract people, districts, in their wisdom, thought shorter, less expensive courses would attract people.  So, we find ourselves with more complex students and less trained staff, a recipe for disaster in my opinion.

So, why do I think Standards of Practice are needed?  The role of an EA has many facets including but not exclusive to academic support to personal care assistance to medical procedures. EAs are being hired with no real understanding of what the job entails leaving them very ill prepared to deal with many situations which can potentially be dangerous. In a short course there is not enough time for some to realize that this career path is not what they thought it was.  Whereas a longer course can teach the students about the complexities of the position and what they need like roles and responsibilities, being a team player, communication skills, data keeping, behaviour modification, promoting independence and so on.  EAs work as a team, they must be on the same page and that includes having similar knowledge.  EAs will always gain more knowledge and competency on the job but new hires must come to the position with enough knowledge and competency to not be a liability to themselves, their co-workers and ultimately the students they support.

Janice Meehan, EA and CUPE President, retired

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