Stephen Myers is a teaching assistant for a primary school in the West Midlands and has written a guest post on the challenges of working with SEN students.
“Seven years ago I decided to change my career path and, after much deliberation, settled on a training course to become a teaching assistant. As inferred, it wasn’t a split decision and there were a number of factors involved in the process. My daughter’s school friend is autistic and my daughter had told me about the wonderful job her friend’s teaching assistant had been doing to help support her in mainstream education.
I had been a cab driver for several years prior to my decision, but it was time to find something meaningful in life. Something that would make my daughter proud and a job that could enable me to work around my primary job as a single parent. But I was worried about being one of the few percent of male TAs. I worried about what my friends thought and whether I was actually up to the job of working with young people.
The process of finding a teaching assistant role back then wasn’t too difficult. I volunteered here and there for several months and completed a few courses and suddenly a TA role surfaced to help support some new TA students joining the school. The students begged me to take on the role, which I did and I haven’t been happier.
I got ribbed by my cabbie colleagues for a while (I was still working part time at the cab office), but when they saw how I had changed and grown, they supported me fully. I was also initially taken aback by how few male teaching assistants there are and felt a little intimidated working with so many (talented) women. They took me under their wings and I became the little brother of the family!
I love my job and I wouldn’t want to do anything else. In the last seven years, I’ve improved my knowledge by taking further specialist SEN courses and I’m looking at working in a special needs school at some point in the future. I know I’ve been a great role model for a number of students I’ve supported – all through understanding, listening and injecting a little sense of humour into the mix.
Some male students often find it difficult to communiate with female members of staff about personal problems, which I’ve helped them overcome.
My daughter is proud of what I’ve achieved and she’s even studying to become a teacher herself.”