Teacher appreciation week is around the corner, the first week of May. While it is hugely important to celebrate our teachers, I want to be sure we include our paraprofessionals, too. Below is an article written by John Edmondson included in an NEA-NH publication (click here to visit the site) that describes his experiences and the value of some of our unsung heroes!
By John Edmondson, Hampstead Middle School
Mar 31, 2016
Originally posted by the Derry News
I wonder what my mother thought of my sixth-grade report card as she perused it back in 1968.
Did scores of little red flags flap as she read that her youngest son, in terms of showing initiative, “needs to improve”?
Apparently I was not a fan of Virginia history, at least the way it was taught at Madison Elementary School. Though I remember feigning interest in the John Rolfe-Pocahontas hookup, my teacher, Mrs. Crane, wasn’t fooled. In the social studies/research and participation category, it was still a stark “needs to improve.”
And I guess taking furtive peeks at MAD magazine, not so cleverly concealed inside the pages of my language arts workbook, didn’t impress good old Mrs. Crane either. As an independent reader, I was dubbed “below average.”
In one quarter that year I nabbed an “excellent” in English Composition, until plagiarizing the World Book Encyclopedia caught up with me. And that “above average” in Skill in Mathematical Problem Solving would prove to be an aberration.
But I wonder if things would’ve been different for me, especially in my pre-high school years, if I’d been given the kind of one-on-one attention many of my Hampstead Middle School students receive today.
I remember school being a sink or swim proposition. You either “got it” the way the teacher taught it, or you didn’t. That’s not the case anymore, thanks to the tireless efforts of the many paraprofessionals I’ve been honored to work with for the past 26 years.
I wouldn’t be the teacher I am today without the help and counsel of paraprofessionals like Sue, Dana, Deb, Sabin, Kathy, Kathy, Ann Marie, Tammy, John and others I’m sure I’ve neglected to name. Together and individually, they’re an indispensible force that makes learning at the highest levels possible for all Hampstead students.
As a writing workshop teacher, I provide individualized instruction every day. But without outstanding paraprofessional support, I’d have to leave too many students unattended.
Many of my “paras” have worked with me for so long that they know all of my teaching maneuvers. They know how to get kids refocused. They know how to stop a sixth-grade insurrection in its tracks. And they know how to jump-start a child’s thinking process without doing the thinking for them.
It’s truly amazing to watch the hands-on care these underappreciated professionals give the profoundly disabled students at my school. They are angels of mercy in every sense of that term.
In 10 1/2 weeks, I’ll call it a career. To quote the great American philosopher, Jerry Garcia, when I think about my life in the classroom, “lately it occurs to me, what a long, strange trip it’s been.”
I have few regrets and lots of fond memories, and much of my success is due to dedicated partners who could—let’s face it—do better financially in any number of endeavors.
I’m grateful they chose education over plenty of other less-fulfilling pursuits. And, selfishly speaking, it’s always reassuring that at least one other person in my classroom can acknowledge my often feeble attempts at humor.
My sincere thanks to all the paraprofessionals I’ve worked with over the years. I couldn’t have done it without you.