February 16, 2020
The Total Education Experience – A Teacher Aide’s view
Last year a recently trained teacher aide, Doug Pederick, approached us to volunteer at our school in order to build his work experience credentials, having recently decided on a change of profession from university electronics technician. He knew about the school but had never seen it in operation. We loved having him around and he could really connect with students through his knowledge of electronics. It was great to get his feedback on a number of things about our school that it is easy to take for granted. This is his experience:
For five full weeks in the last term of 2019 at the School of Total Education in Warwick Queensland I did work experience in Education Support, a role known at the school as Teacher-Aide. I value the experience greatly and am grateful to have had the opportunity.
Coming from more conventional (and much larger) schools I was made to feel very welcome by all the staff. In the schools in Melbourne where I come from, you tend to feel comparatively anonymous. There is a strong sense of community and a feeling of mutual respect at SOTE and I am sure that the students pick up on this.
The dining room meal times create a strengthened sense of common identity through the simple, civilising ritual of a meal together which many students may not otherwise usually experience. The food was healthy, tasty and varied, prepared by a friendly team of both paid staff and many volunteers.
With classes comprising a maximum of a dozen students I noticed that much more time was available for the teacher and students to interact in educationally and socially useful ways rather than with behavior management (i.e settling a noisy classroom, for example). In other words, so much less time and energy is spent by the teacher in establishing and maintaining order in the classroom so that learning can happen. This makes such a difference to energy levels, general well being, and the ability to concentrate on what matters. Another benefit of small classes is the extra available time between teacher and each student.
I had the opportunity to work with individual students (with additional learning needs) in special support programs for literacy. It was very heartening to find out that with only an hour or two per week of intensive, well targeted activity over the course of the year, students were showing measurable improvements in various aspects of their literacy. Seeing these results is kind of what makes Education Support as a career path feel really worthwhile!
As I understand, SOTE has an underlying philosophy that puts the holistic development of the student, their families, and the broader community as the absolute priority, indeed the purpose and mission of the school. In my opinion Warwick is so very fortunate to have this wonderful school.
Douglas Pederick, January 2020