Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Generic “Playground Aide”? I Don't Think So!

Everyone is justifiably applauding teachers this week. Most go above and beyond the pittance they're paid, dedicating their personal time and often dipping into they own budgets to provide what schools will not or cannot. Similarly, classroom aides work hard to assist their students and mentors in making sure kids are happy and learning. 

One rank of the school system everyone overlooks is me: the playground aide. Low on the educational food chain, my peers and I come in for an hour or two every day to supervise recess, allowing teachers and classroom aides to have their well-deserved lunch. NEVER acknowledged, most of us aren't even known by name. Most kids refer to us as “the aide” if they're talking to someone about us, as if we are generic.

So what does a playground aide do?

Playground aides are important in keeping kids safe!

First and foremost, we protect your children from:

  1. Outsiders who may be innocently walking their dogs,joggers working out, and/or predators who “wander” onto the playground during outdoor recess.

  2. Themselves as they run after balls, stand under basketball backstops, and unintentionally chase each other into the woods or into parking lots. 

  3. Parents who think they can just come on over to recess to say “hi” to their kids forgetting that the kids are the school's responsibility during the day. These parents mean no harm, of course, but recess is an important part of a child's school experience. It's important that parents not interfere with their kids' social opportunities. 

  4. Each other as we referee squabbles and are on the constant look-out for bullying. 


We get to know your kids as individuals and in groups. We see who they hang with, how those groups interact, and who is most likely to be left out (it can vary from day to day).  We also talk with kids when they are alone, ascertaining whether the kid WANTS to be by him/herself or someone has excluded them (exclusions are addressed quickly). Arguments are taken seriously and talked about with the parties shaking hands or with an understanding nod; if a disagreement cannot be resolved, I send both kids to the school counselor for further consideration. Name calling and bullying are NEVER tolerated. 

My co-workers and I try our best to protect kids against injuries, but, unfortunately, they do happen. Kids carelessly bump heads, basketball players fall in the heat of the game, little ones trip over curbs and fall down walkways when the sun gets in their eyes. My peers and I wipe tears as we guide children to the nurse. Truth be told, WE get injuries too; I'm reminded of this as I look at the scratches I got yesterday trying to rescue a ball from the rosebushes. I'd rather get wounded getting a ball than have a kid get hurt (worst case scenario: the ball stays in the patch of poison ivy). 

While some aides look for reasons to blow their whistles at the kids, I take the motherly approach to being a playground aide: I look for and praise the good in children. Helpers are rewarded with praise, cooperation is copiously thanked, smiles are free and easy. A handful of children take the time to ask my name, wonder if I'm a mom, and tell me about their day. With one eye on the others, I beam at these kids: they make my heart sing! If I see these kids with their parents around town, I take the time to introduce myself to their parents and tell them how incredible their children are. 

So why take on such a humble, low-paying, often thankless job? Because it allows me to contribute to the family financially while still being at home for my younger daughter. I'm on her schedule, never far away and even if she's sick, I'm only away from her for an hour or two. My humble little salary helps pay for snacks, contributes to fundraisers, and allows us to splurge on the occasional ice cream cone. Plus, I LOVE being around kids, even for an hour or two until my own come home. 

Yes, to most of the kids, I am an nonspecific “aide,” or babysitter. To many of the parents, I'm usually a peon who “forgot to remind Jimmy to put on his jacket” (truth is, I reminded Jimmy several times, but I'm not wrestling your little darling into his overcoat on a 75 degree day). To the school administration, I'm a required-by-law body who allows the teachers to get some rest. But to a special handful of children, I'm a friend at recess when their peers abandon them, a protector, and there when they need someone to talk to. And those kids, who know my name, know I'm not generic at all. 

Thanks for reading!!!

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