This inspiring blog article provides an array of tips for being an effective teaching assistant. Having worked in various schools myself as a teaching assistant I know that supporting teachers and students efficiently is hard work but also very rewarding. My experience has inspired me to write this article, as I realise that being a teaching assistant extends beyond the job description.
According to the Government, a teaching assistant’s job is to support children with their learning, collaborate with the teacher to facilitate effective learning experiences as well as prepare classroom activities and displays. However, I understand, from personal experience working in various educational settings, that supporting teachers effectively extends beyond these statutory requirements and requires diligence, innovation and empathy towards staff and students.
- Firstly teaching assistants need to be vigilant, continually observing how they can support the teacher and students in the most useful ways. Using one’s initiative rather than waiting to be given instructions is highly rated by teachers, because they can focus on teaching the class knowing their teaching assistant will independently adhere to classroom tasks. ‘Actions speak louder than words’, therefore this trust and reliance develops over time.
TIP: Keep your eyes open for opportunities throughout the day to help different students and support the teacher in the best way possible.
- Flexibility is another key attribute of an efficient teaching assistant. Adapting to meet the teacher’s unique needs each day will ensure lessons are carried out according to their plans, and ensure pupils engage in productive learning experiences.
TIP: Be willing to change your plans depending on your teacher’s daily plan and make sure you adapt your activities to meet each child’s individual learning needs.
- Good professional working relationships develop between teachers and their teaching assistants when they collaborate effectively to achieve intended learning outcomes. This involves teaching assistants getting to know their teacher’s unique style of teaching, classroom management techniques and personal ideology.
TIP: Observe your teacher vigilantly and ask them what they expect from you, so you can efficiently replicate their teaching style.
- Fostering professional relationships with students is another vital part of being an effective teaching assistant, because pupils often work more effectively in a positive classroom atmosphere where they feel comfortable among the staff. Also, comprehending each student’s unique background and academic capabilities can help teaching assistants support children appropriately, and endorse personalized learning experiences.
TIP: Find out your students’ backgrounds and abilities to ensure you support them effectively, according to their unique needs.
- Communication is key when working in schools because it needs to be clear and appropriate but also sensitive and empathetic. Intrapersonal skills are paramount for teaching assistants as they engage with individuals of various ages and abilities. For example, students require academic as well as emotional support, whereas conversations among work colleagues involve both professional and personal topics.
TIP: Alter your tone of voice and body language according to the individual or group of people you are addressing.
- Teaching assistants should attain a good level of subject knowledge, because it can enhance students learning experiences by extending their understanding beyond the classroom teaching. Differentiation is a difficult task for teachers therefore assistants who are familiar with the education system are valued, because they can support the students more effectively, especially those with special educational needs.
TIP: Research your school’s policies, the curriculum they follow and revise the subject content so you can correctly answer any questions the students may ask.
- Being creative and innovative are key characteristics for teaching assistants because typical classroom tasks involve creating displays and organising small group activities. New and innovative ideas are welcome in schools, because they can heighten the delivery of curriculum content and motivate pupils in their learning journey. Educational technology, for example, is a contemporary method for engaging pupils in the twenty-first century and facilitating enjoyable learning experiences. Programmes such as Quizalize offer classroom assessment opportunities where the data can be easily tracked and analysed by teachers.
TIP: Do not be afraid to suggest and experiment with new ideas, as teachers appreciate additional input.
- Teaching assistants should maintain a positive outlook and be willing to get involved with any task. Readiness to engage in messy or challenging activities and provide practical support, such as gathering resources, is highly valued by teachers.
TIP: Enthusiastically undertake any task asked of you however mundane or arduous it may seem.
- Managing behaviour in the classroom is demanding for teachers, but when staff unite to employ the same level of discipline and behaviour management strategies then students’ behaviour is more likely to improve. Teaching assistants must use their authority appropriately and work in accordance with the classroom teacher to encourage good behaviour in the classroom.
TIP: Comply with the behaviour management strategy used in the classroom, but do not undermine the teacher.
- Finally, a teaching assistant’s role should not be underestimated because efficiently supporting teachers and students requires hard work and dedication. Willingness to devote additional time and effort to ensure the job is carried out to the best of one’s ability is a key characteristic of an outstanding teaching assistant.
TIP: Work quickly and efficiently, whilst also putting 100% into all your duties.
Teaching assistants are important and valuable members of staff and their role involves more than simply reading with children and constructing displays. Teachers rely on their assistants to get physically involved during classroom activities, reinforce the subject knowledge taught in the classroom and emotionally support the pupils where necessary. By working together, teachers and their assistants can ensure students engage in high quality learning experiences.