What I've Learned: The Public Needs to Know More About ESPs

Educators may spend their careers preparing lessons, but often the most memorable are those they learn themselves.  With that in mind, NEA Today asked school staff –  everyone from classroom teachers and bus drivers to guidance counselors and school nurses – to share the everyday lessons they’ve picked up along the way in a series called “What I’ve Learned.”

Audrey Haskell: Administrative Assistant, Lewis & Clark Elementary School in Grand Forks, North Dakota

I’ve learned that most parents and kids have no idea how many hats we wear in our schools.  No matter what our job descriptions really say, we are also nurses and counselors. We repair everything from glasses to copy machines, straighten lopsided ponytails and listen to whatever really important story an eager student has to tell us each morning. One little boy told his mom that my job was to give out ice packs, answer the phone and be nice to people. He said I must be pretty good at it because they give me money.

I’ve learned that no matter how prepared I think I am for almost any situation, I’m wrong. The only one who really cares if I’m having a terrible day is me, so I may as well deal with whatever comes along with as much patience and humor as I can muster.

I’ve learned that although Education Support Professionals (ESPs) have come a long ways in being thought of as partners in the education of students, there is still work to do.

I’ve learned that some students so badly need to have a home cooked meal like spaghetti and salad for supper, a nice warm bath, bedtime stories and hugs.  They deserve a clean cozy bed, enough sleep and nothing but sweet dreams.  But, as much as we’d like to, we can’t take them home with us to provide them with the care they deserve.  We can, however, give them healthy breakfast and lunch choices, clean places to learn and play and let them know that we will do everything in our power to keep them safe while they are with us.

Lastly, I’ve learned that I could be a secretary in a lot of different offices for better pay but I choose to be an ESP. What I don’t bring home in my paycheck, comes to me in the faces of the students every day.

Not that I would turn down more money!