Within any classroom there is a diversity of learning styles, a range of needs, and various challenges. Education assistants, who work with special education students, or students who have behaviour management needs, take on the responsibility of adapting environments for their students. One of the most important aspects to succeeding in a classroom is establishing genuine connections.
In order to help students reach their full potential, it is necessary to get to know them well. Being able to recognize students’ strengths will provide you with more options for helping to keep them engaged and excited.
Here are a few points to keep in mind as you navigate your role in students’ educational experiences.
If You Believe in Their Success, They Will Too
It may be the case that students you assist will have the idea, whether consciously or not, that success at school is not possible for them. Traditional markers of academic success may cause special education students to feel inadequate, insecure, or as if no one expects much from them. Part of education assistant training involves in-school experience, where you may even witness these feelings first-hand. Fortunately, as an education assistant, you’ll be well equipped to help students realize just how much potential they have, and help them see that they really do have so much to offer.
One strategy that can be used to address negative feelings is positive reinforcement. For example, you want to make sure your students know when they do well and provide more learning experiences that foster those successes. If you notice that a student loves to draw, give them a chance to visually respond to a lesson. This validates their learning style and recognizes neurodiversity as a strength of differences rather than a deficit. Figuring this out for students may mean reflecting on your positive experiences in educational assistant classes because being able to recognize where you felt success will help you see it in others as well.
Provide a Culturally Sensitive Environment
Another aspect of knowing your student and nurturing their potential is recognizing their life experiences outside of the classroom. Acknowledging their cultural background, languages they may speak at home, and what their lives are like is just as important as being familiar with their cognitive and physical abilities.
Consider ways to adjust lesson plans or activities to reflect your familiarity and respect for who your students are. This may also extend to their general interests. For example if they love music, consider incorporating songs or lyrics into activities.
Become an Education Assistant Known for Their Creativity
Paying attention to what excites students will give you ideas for ways to keep them engaged in the classroom. The myriad of differences you may experience when you become an education assistant will quickly add up. One practical strategy that will leave space for your creativity to flourish is to record individual preferences, needs, and strengths of your students.
Once you have a clear idea of who your students are, the ways to connect with them will become easier to grasp and organize. For example, a student may respond well to routine. Knowing this, you might set up a daily prompt for them to express their feelings each afternoon. Something like that would help you create an environment where students feel comfortable and able to thrive.
Are you interested in pursuing a career as an education assistant?
Learn more about the educational assistant training available at KLC!