Being a teacher can seem a lonely place sometimes! There is only 1 of you and up to 30 students!
Only one of you to prepare, organise, plan, deliver, explain, repeat, talk, raise your voice, whisper, mark, assess, critique, repeat (oops I have repeated myself!), sooth, encourage, reprimand, develop, mitigate, speak and to listen…and this list is non-exhaustive.
Many a happy and successful teaching session, day, week, month, term or year has, for me, depended upon the character and the skills of my assigned teaching assistant. My aide, teaching companion, ‘getter of coffee’, critical friend and listening ear for the pupils.
Teaching assistants are often the backbone of the class and school and knowing how to work with, manage and to maximise their impact in the classroom is a skill best learnt early in any teacher’s career.
I have seen the role of the teaching assistant evolve over the past 30 years. My first experience of working with a teaching assistant, was for me, one of my steepest learning curves. Fresh from my PGCE course I was young enthusiastic and a little naïve. My teaching assistant became my confidante and guide through those early days and weeks of teaching.
- Make sure that I was ready and prepared for the art session.
- Always managed to collect the key for the PE cupboard just as my class and I were snaking down the Victorian school stairs in Shoreditch to the playground.
- Magically managed the dynamics between two groups of boys who had just lost at football.
Gladys was a marvel and working with her gave me the confidence and skills to teach effective lessons, to relate to the pupils more positively, to be better prepared and organised and to have a knowledge and understanding of the wider school community the pupils came from.
Working collaboratively is the first step to maximising a TA’s impact. Making sure planning is shared, their role in the lesson is made clear and their personal skills and character traits acknowledged in the planning.
Get to know one another
Take time to get to know your TA. Watch and see what they are capable of and ask them what they specifically like to do in the classroom. Assigning them to work with a range of groups and individuals on a range of tasks can also be a good initial strategy as is allows everyone to know and understand what works.
Play to their strengths
If a TA has a passion for a specific subject area or is patient and thorough then allow them to have the opportunity to share their passion for ICT or the War Poets or helping that group to grasp long division! If you would like your TA to develop with you then ensure that you lead by example and pass on any hints and tips you have. For example, behaviour management or working with pupils with a specific educational need or disability.
Share what's important
Make sure that you share any non-confidential information with your TA about the pupils and their specific needs and involve them in any professional meetings, as appropriate. The TA will also be able to provide you with specific information and ideas as they are in the unique position of being in the classroom, amongst the pupils and therefore able to observe them more closely.
Keep yourself organised
The best form of classroom management often comes from being well organised and clear with the expectations for all who learn and work in the classroom. A quick daily briefing of 2-3 minutes can help to allay any misconceptions and having your TA involved in planning the ideas for the execution of the curriculum allows for them to be involved and contribute.
The most precious resource your classroom has is the human ones. Two minds are always better than one and sometimes sharing the success of the day and the struggles and challenges and ‘debriefing’ will allow you to be better prepared as a practitioner.
When you work effectively with your TA you feel like your workload is halved and you will also never have to go through a morning without a hot milky coffee or sugary tea!
About our Community Expert
Editorial Advisory Board Lead
Over 27 years of educational experiences in a number of settings. Developed a clear vision and ethos for inclusion which puts the child at the centre and a clear understanding of how to support, engage and nurture the individual.
Ability to train all staff through effective and reflective continual professional development in behavioural management techniques that begin, establish and maintain change in all.