Teachers (aides) make a difference

| March 4, 2013

Learning Support Officer, Rosemary Bugge, shares her experience working in the Catholic education system for more than 10 years and reflects on the systemic changes that have taken place, both in and out of the classroom.

I am blessed to be entrusted with the precious task of helping to educating our youth. My job as a Teacher’s Aide or Learning Support Officer (the new title we are getting acquainted with) at a Catholic primary school in South-west Sydney is probably one of the best (and probably most difficult) jobs in the world.

As a Learning Support Officer, I assist the classroom teacher by developing and obtaining resources, setting up and operating equipment and providing and more tailored approach for children with additional learning needs. The most important part of my job, and the job of any Learning Support Office, is to help children who may struggle with school, either academically or socially, to become confident students.

Throughout my 12–year long career I have been privileged enough to have to access to ongoing professional development with courses offered by the Catholic Education Office. These courses assist with numeracy, literacy, behaviours, helping children on the Autism Spectrum and much more. Education is such an organic thing; it’s constantly changing and evolving with new pedagogy and key learning areas, so keeping abreast of new and improved teaching methods is paramount.

Advancements in technology have also filtered into the classroom and changed the way we do things at a grassroots level. Interactive smart boards, iPods, iPads, flip videos and interactive apps are now all part of the learning experience – no boring lessons anymore!

Interactive apps are often used as ‘warm ups’ in class on the interactive smart board to further engage students who would otherwise not participate. With this technology, I find children who are easily distracted are now far now engaged and get a lot more out of the colourful and exciting visual introduction.

The use of iPads in the classroom has also been a significant step forward. Now we can be mobile with our learning and more hands-on when, for example, we’re conducting science experiments. With such technology children have become more creative – they can take photos of a variety of things in our school environment – and incorporate elements of play into learning.

Nevertheless, use of traditional, concrete materials, board games and tactile equipment like pegs, sand, water and play dough are still important learning tools that allow children to enhance their fine motor skills by cutting, pasting, tracing and building.

Another major change experienced throughout the Catholic Education System has been the ripple effect of a significant increase in the number of children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism.

Students who feature on the Autism Spectrum, or those with ADD and ADHD, often require a great deal of guidance with social skills and, in a teaching environment, can be a distraction for other children. Learning Support Officers assist in this area, offering additional care to children who need a bit more encouragement, particularly at the beginning of a new academic year when school procedures need to be implemented.

The allocation of resources needs to be carefully thought-out in order to ensure this rise in the number of students on the Autism Spectrum or those with ADD and ADHD is addressed.

Teachers and Learning Support Officers need to work closely with parents in order to provide the best possible learning environment. When we are aware of a certain issue – diagnosed conditions or difficulties at home – we can make a conscious effort to ensure a child’s specific needs are met and they feel safe and cared for. In cases where parents withhold such information, difficult and potentially dangerous situations can (and will) arise.

Teaching staff, parents and relatives must all work as a team to ensure the children’s welfare is our number one priority. This will help promote independent, happy, responsible and compassionate young people.