Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thursday 13

Thirteen Reasons I Want This Teacher's Aide Job

Today I interviewed for an aide job in a class for students with severe disabilities. I've worked with kids with severe disabilities before, but they were gentle. These children are not. If I get this job, I will have to wear steel-toed boots to work because there are very large children who step on people's toes, and I will have to wear rubber gloves all day for the purpose of constant diaper-changing. Neither of these things particularly fazes me, but I worry about whether I am physically capable of restraining a child that is as large as I am.

Any sane person would run screaming from this job, but I never was completely sane :) So, here are my thirteen reasons why I actually want this job.

1. I want to prove to myself that I can handle it.

This would be a stupid reason on its own, but it's true. I've worked with kids who have such a wide variety of needs that I'd really hate to draw a line somewhere and say "No way, these kids are TOO disabled for me, thank you very much" without actually giving it a try. I've dealt with kids who poop their pants and throw chairs, and it honestly wasn't that awful big of a deal. These kids are just bigger and do it more often.

2. I've never regretted any other work in this field.
The first time I was in a special ed room I thought going over the alphabet with seven-year-olds was more than I could handle (in my defense, I was a recovering "gifted" student and fresh out of high school), but I loved it. The first time I worked with a child who had physical disabilities I was worried I couldn't handle changing diapers and giving him a bath, but I loved that job too. So I really feel there is a strong chance I would end up loving this job too. Maybe I am just the kind of crazy person who enjoys this stuff.

3. Despite being in a school, this is way less schoolish than the daycare job I applied for.
The daycare job, which I'm waiting to hear back from, is basically teaching preschool. Hours and hours of forcing two- and three-year-olds to sit perfectly still and color worksheets and write their letters. Seriously, two-year-olds! I already think five is too young for that crap; I really don't want to be forcing babies to do it. Meanwhile, the special ed job is much more like occupational therapy and babysitting mixed together.
The kids don't have to sit in one place unless they're doing some specific task that calls for it, and I'd be mainly working with them on things like communicating their needs. I'd be a facilitator and protector, not a taskmaster. I can dig that.

4. I'd be mainly working with an autistic student.

I've always been really interested in autism - I've read lots of books on the subject, known plenty of people who were labeled as being on the higher-functioning end of the autism spectrum (which is a big headachey subject I won't go into here), and I just generally know a lot about it. I like the idea of a job that lets me use skills I learned basically by browsing the internet during the years I "should" have been in high school.

5. Vacations!
The classic draw for working in schools. I generally want to smack people who would cite that as a primary reason, because they have no idea what they are doing. But you can't deny that it is a nice benefit.

6. I have never felt more qualified for a job in my life.
I am so, so tired of going to job interviews for jobs working with children, where the interviewer does not seem to give a shit that I volunteered with children for several years. They want to know about paid experience only. The principal who interviewed me for this job, though, was genuinely impressed with the work I've done and saw it as valuable experience. It's nice to be respected.

7. Plain curiosity.
Honestly, I just always wanted to know how the classes for kids with more severe disabilities work. Actually that's what got me into the special ed volunteer work in the first place - I just wanted to know how it worked.

8. More experience to add to unschooling discussions.
Occasionally people come around and want to know about kids with special needs, and it's a hard question because often learning doesn't seem to come as freely and easily to them. I'd love to go back into the world of special ed now that I have an unschooling mindset, and see what I can learn about how these kids learn.

9. I like the idea of a job that requires you to dress down because you'll get messy anyway.
The aides were explaining to me that you can't wear nice clothes to this job (I felt really weird in my suit and heels, but it WAS a job interview...), and one of them said "Yeah, I usually wear a lab coat." I don't think I need to point out how awesome that is.

10. I love active, hands-on, moving-around work.
One reason I have always been drawn to teacher-type work is that I hate student-type work, i.e. office work. I am the kind of person who would rather come home achy from working too hard all day, than be forced to sit still all day. I get achy from sitting still anyway. If I'm gonna be sore either way, I'd rather it be from doing something interesting.

11. I might consider adopting a special-needs child one day.
And I want experience with as many different types of special needs as possible, so that I know what I can and cannot handle.

12. Believe it or not, the money.
Let me be clear: The money, by any objective standard, sucks. But compared to the income level I grew up with, and compared to what I could earn at a non-education job (and all my qualifications are education-related, so I'd be stuck flipping burgers or doing entry-level office work), it's quite nice. Especially considering that whole summers off thing.

13. I honestly believe I am "supposed" to have this job, in some sort of cosmic way.
Call it God, intuition, fate, sheer dumb luck, or whatever, but here's what happened: About a month ago I was desperate for jobs and was applying for literally everything I could. Every time a job seemed promising, the people would mysteriously vanish and not call me back to tell me when an interview would be, or whatever. And something in my gut was just saying Wait. My brain, of course, was screaming that my gut was full of crap (pun not intended, but funny) and that I needed a job NOWNOWNOW. But I just felt this peace about not getting one just yet, and every time I looked at job listings that gut instinct kept tugging at me, telling me I was going in the wrong direction. Then, when it finally hit me that I *was* ready, I just happened to look at the school board website and this job had been posted THAT DAY. I applied for it on the next business day and immediately got called back to schedule an interview.

Of course, if I don't actually end up getting the job, that will kind of put a damper on the whole "fate" idea, but my gut is usually right about these things. And my gut is telling me this job is a good idea, even though my brain is screaming that sane people do not take low-paying jobs where they will get bitten and spat at. But my brain has a track record of being wrong about this stuff, so I'm ignoring it for now. It can handle the paperwork later.

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