If they have not been appropriately trained, then the system is to blame.

As an Education Assistant (EA) of 24 years, I think standards of practice for Education Assistants are crucial for a variety of reasons. The first and most obvious reason is the students. The students that are being supported by EAs across the province deserve to be supported appropriately. They deserve, and are entitled to, their best education. Having standards of practice will ensure the people supporting students have the skills and understanding to be able to meet the needs of students who may have complex learning challenges.

Standards of practice are also important for the EAs who are being trained currently. While I understand we do not have enough EAs in our education system to meet the needs of the students, I do not feel that we should be taking shortcuts to fill the need. If we do not prepare EAs appropriately for the job they will do, then we have set the EAs up for failure, and ultimately the students they are supporting, and all the professionals and other students working in the classroom. We do them a disservice by not preparing them fully for their role.

While all new jobs will have a learning curve, the role EAs play in supporting students with complex needs means they need to be appropriately prepared for the important job they will be doing. If we do not have standards of practice, we may have people that are not appropriately prepared for the job, as the training available varies greatly from 2 weeks to 2 years. This could be a safety issue for the students and the EAs, as often the EAs with the least amount of experience will work in positions with students who have high needs. If they are not adequately trained then we have set them up to fail. They have been told they are ready and prepared, but they are not. When this happens, the student is often blamed and then labeled as bad or difficult, and the EA is blamed, but ultimately, if they have not been appropriately trained, then the system is to blame.

I believe that everyone who decides to become an EA does it because they genuinely want to help children. We need to give them, and the children they will be supporting, the best opportunity to do that by having a minimum standard of practice so everyone can be at the same starting point when they begin working as an EA.

Natalie Taylor-Lane, EA of 24 years

4 thoughts on “If they have not been appropriately trained, then the system is to blame.

  1. Sue

    I agree I find the new EA are not trained, qualified to be EAs. The kids are suffering. Also, the old EAs are coming in educated, qualified and not being recognized or paid for their education or experience.

    Reply
  2. Stacey

    There is a knowledge deficit throughout our entire education system. While I do support standardizing education for EAs, many teachers have no special education expertise and I believe this is what is failing students. Furthermore, there are many ‘unqualified’ EAs working in the system with superior knowledge because they successfully learned through experience. My solution to this problem is to create a system where non-qualified EA’s can challenge the Education Assistant program through writing a challenge exam. Qualifications only mean so much, we need to embrace those who have an excellent working knowledge too. Many teachers are ‘qualified,’ and I wouldn’t trust them to successfully clean a hamster cage.

    Reply
    1. Katie M. Bauder

      I agree with you with Stacey. It doesn’t matter how knowledgeable the EAs are, if the teachers are not knowledgeable it will still be a struggle. However, I very much appreciate the teachers that I have worked with who were so open to learning from me!

      I also agree that qualifications only mean so much. I support a more standardized education for EAs but a qualified EA is a combination of proper training/education, learned through experience, and also the important elements of caring, compassion and desire to continue learning throughout their career.

      Reply

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