The Mythical Teacher’s Aide

teacher's aides

Every few days this meme makes the rounds in my Facebook news feed, and every time I’m surprised.

Not because people are advocating for a livable wage. I support that.

But who are teacher’s aides?

No really. Who are they? I thought they went extinct years ago, gone the way of the dinosaurs.

I’ve taught in several districts in more than one state, and it has been years since I’ve seen a teacher’s aide in a non-special education classroom. (And the only reason they still have them is because of each student’s federal IEP; otherwise I’m sure they would have tragically disappeared too.)

In one school I taught in every teacher on the grade level shared one teacher’s assistant. Some days she was pulled by the principal to cover other duties, but on the other days she could pull out a small group of kids to give them remediation. Because there were so many classes in the grade level, and because she also had to cover some of the lunches in the cafeteria, she worked with my students for about 20 minutes.

I didn’t have a problem with her personally. But come on, 20 minutes a day? There is only so much that can be done in that short window of time.

As we teachers have faced more accountability from test scores and more stringent (and costly) teacher evaluation systems, the funding that used to go to hiring additional staff has been reallocated. After all, those tests (and the computers they’re administered on) aren’t free. Once again, we show who and what we really value. (And it’s never the “who.”)

I know that for me personally I seem to spend more time each year being my own teacher’s aide or personal assistant. New mandates and paperwork and online certifications are piled on, but nothing is ever taken away. A lot of times the art of teaching becomes secondary to all of the busywork required for the job.

So if you see one of these mythical teacher’s aides, stop them and thank them for their work. Advocate for the livable wage.

And see if one could come help me in my classroom.



PS I know there’s a missing word in the meme. I’m choosing to ignore it for the sake of this writing.


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