You read it correctly – I went to work today! After five and a half months of being laid off and unemployed, I finally got a call to work a shift today as a Substitute Educational Assistant at a local school here in the GP Region. And guess what? I loved it!

I was so nervous when I got the call. And it was so weird because I had this feeling that I was going to get called. My mom phoned me around 10:00AM by accident and it woke me up. I thought to myself ‘Man, it would have been so shitty if I would have gotten a call for a shift and I wouldn’t have heard my phone ring.’ About 5 minutes later, my phone rings again. It’s an Alberta number. I answer with my english greeting, trying to sound as sweet as possible.


“Hi, Carmen? This is Melanie, from the Grande Prairie Public School District.”


“I was just wondering if you wanted to come in for a shift today.”

Oh my God, I’m not ready for this. I can’t do this. Say no!

“Uh… sure. What time?”

YOU SAID YES, GOOD FOR YOU! Now stop sweating and finish the conversation… 

“It would be for this afternoon, so if you could come by in an hour, that would be great.”

And that was that! Max basically booted me out of bed right away, he was probably more excited that I was! He also offered to make me breakfast, and I gladly accepted. I got dressed and got ready while he made some grub. I ate as much as I could, and then I headed out the door!

The nerves were starting to kick in, but I was still feeling confident. Yay me!

I had to look around for parking when I got to the school because the preschool kids were finishing up for the day and all their parents were waiting in the parking lot. I found a spot that I thought – and hoped – was legit, and made my way to the main entrance. I walked up the secretary’s desk – passing ponds with actual live fish in them!! – and explained to her who I was and why I was here. She directed me to an office and I waited until an employee came to greet me. It was Melanie, the same lady that hired me. It was a relief to see a familiar face, and she just has this great vibe that radiates contagious positivity.

She led me to the sign in book, given the fact that I wasn’t even in the online system yet, and I wrote down my name and signed. She then led me to the kindergarten classroom and briefly explained who I would be working with. She left me there, and I was kindly greeted by the kindergarten teacher (whose name I have already forgot – oops) and another Educational Assistant. The teacher was sitting feeding a disabled little girl while the Educational Assistant was cleaning up with three boys. I wasn’t sure if this was the entire class or just the special needs students, but I figured either way, it was a good way to start off.

Mrs Blank – that’s what I’ve dubbed the kindergarten teacher – talked me through what we would be doing all afternoon and explained how I could help. She also introduced me to the Educational Assistant and to all the students who were in the classroom. Despite how unfamiliar and foreign this all was, I was beginning to feel comfortable already. I helped clean up and then we sat down with the kids to eat lunch. One boy started to take a liking to me right away – it’s like the daycare all over again!

The kids all finished their lunches and I was starting to get a good feel of what kind of discipline techniques worked best for different children. It was definitely a lot easier to handle compared to supervising 30+ kids all in one room – during the summer.

After lunch was over was when my heart started pounding again. I started to sweat a little bit too when Mrs Blank asked me to clean up and watch over the little girl, who’s disabilities were more extreme than the rest of the kids in class. My initial thoughts: Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this, I have no idea what I’m doing. There were only 2 kids at the daycare who had been diagnosed with a mental disability and both were very calm and didn’t require much one-on-one attention, not more than any of the other kids anyway. So as you can assume, my experience is somewhat limited to those two kids.

The disabled girl in the classroom was sitting in some sort of contraption, and I think Mrs Blank may have asked me to remove her from it, but I had no idea how so I just sat down and tried to keep her entertained. Shortly after, the other Educational Assistant, let’s call her Mrs Edmonton – that’s one of the few details I learned about her, she’s from Edmonton – showed me how to release the girl from the contraption and she walked her over to a floor mat. It took us a few minutes to get there but then she and I sat down and played with some toys. Huh, this is going better than I thought…

I hadn’t caught on, but the little girl had a specific Educational Assistant who was always with her, and she had just been absent because she needed to fill out an accident report. So now she was back and I was off girl-duty. Back to supervising the boys!

Only a few moments went by until we heard the bell ring and all the other kindergarten students showed up. Ah, this makes more sense now. I had been wondering if the class consisted only of special needs kids or if there were others combined. And now my question had been answered.

All afternoon they worked on various projects and did lots of fun activities alone and in groups. Most of my job was just walking around, giving them all positive feedback and keeping an eye on two of the boys from the special needs group. One was super well behaved and hardly needed any help, while the other did pretty good but apparently was a lot more needy today than most days. As for the third boy, he had to work alone in a separate room with Mrs Edmonton because I think being with others stressed him and made him act out.

All in all, I had an amazing day. Time went by super fast, all the kids were great to work with, and there was a perfect amount of kids for my first day on the job. The other Educational Assistant were actually surprised when I told them it was my first day, so I guess I did a good job. Now let’s just hope I can get some more shifts! 🙂



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