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How studying a vocational course helped this student take control over her life

March 6, 2020

I never felt as though my life was something I had any power over. People make decisions, things happen, and I go along with it as well as possible—but making my own decisions seemed to be something other people did. Studying to be a teacher aide with Adapt Education was one of the first decisions I made for myself, and I will never regret it.

My youngest son is 8 years old, and when he was 7 he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. He has challenges in school that often are invisible, and I found myself learning more and more about children like him. The more I began to learn, the more I wanted to help those children. I wanted to support educators as well because they are the most important and underappreciated people I know. I have been privileged as a parent to partner with some incredibly gifted and caring teachers, and I have seen how tirelessly they work.

My progress through the course has been steady, but with monumental effort. I have four children, aged 8, 9, 12, and 13. When I started my course my husband was working away from home and returning each weekend—this meant that study time was unconventional, to say the least. I have worked in the library, on the beach, while camping, in my car, in an empty house while my husband did renovation work, in a hospital ward when our oldest had pneumonia, waiting for my children to get out of school, in quiet moments at Christmas (much to the amusement of my children and husband), and even while waiting for two of our children to get out of oral surgery. In between caring for my children, making a home for my family, doing placement hours at one local school, volunteering at another school, and more recently coordinating my children’s learning from home, I have had to become extremely creative about when, where, and how I study. My laptop (and coffee machine!) have been my trusted companions and learning how to use my phone to connect to the internet was a necessity.

While my children don’t quite understand just what it means for me to pursue this certificate, they have seen me wrestling with assignments, and witnessed my pride when I get assessment feedback. I hope that they will learn that yes, sometimes things can be difficult—but that isn’t a reason to give up. I have learned so much more than just how to be a teacher aide—I have learned to be confident in all areas of my life, and I have learned that while I may not have control over everything that happens, I have the power to choose my path forward.

Sarah Sims is the winner of aXceler-Writes, a bi-annual competition that aims to showcase the positive outcomes of the Australian VET industry.

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