A teaching assistant works alongside a class teacher in a primary or secondary school. All over Europe, they have different names, such as : ‘aides’, ‘classroom assistants’, ‘learning support assistant’, but the moment the most common one is the one used at the beginning of the sentence.(Study Topic 1)
In present, their role is extremely important, and it is hard to imagine things as easily as they run now without their help, especially because there is a big deficit in the number of teachers in primary schools.
Skilled teaching assistant bring a very valuable contribution to pupils achievement within the learning environment.
Unfortunately I started working in a school later than I should have, but I feel as every experience I’ve been through led me to this.
I volunteer as teaching assistant 3 days a week, and in the rest of the time I look after two children, aged 9 and 5 years old, that attend the school I work in. My job description involves certain things, such as assisting the teacher by supporting the pupils during the teaching of the curriculum and always working under the direction of the class teacher.
Because I am all the time surrounded by children, I can assist the children and understand their learning needs.(K.U 1.1) My prior job inside the classroom is to listen to the children, respect and value them. Even though I haven’t been working for too long with them, the pupils in my classroom already gained respect and confidence in me, and I can see how slowly, with my help and of course, the teacher’s , they are gaining the sense of independence, which is extremely important for a child developing. I’m helping by ensuring they have access to the curriculum at all the times, and by using plenty of praise and rewards. I make sure that all the children participate fully in every lesson, by reminding them of teaching points made by teacher and help them organise and participate in appropriate play activities or games.
Most of the times I’m working with pupils in Year 3, but sometimes I’m in Foundation Stage. In the Year 3 (7-8 years), I encourage the pupils to work independently when the case and to try to manage their own reading. I’m also always encouraging them to use the library independently, as I am with the pupils in Foundation Stage, which need to be encouraged to develop their independent learning skills. They have to learn to take turns and speak and follow simple written instructions. I need to make sure that the pupils are able to make choices about books and to persuade them to learn independently.
In both cases I am always trying to teach the pupils to use information from various sources and to complete all tasks set in a given time.
I have to be aware at all the times of the school’s policies, for example in the case of children protection, the school has a member of the staff who is responsible for child protection matters, a Child Protection Policy and certain procedures to deal with any child protection issues arising(K.U 1.2). Another important matter that I must always keep in mind are the policies regarding bullying, as unfortunately, is a very common problem in schools all over the world.
In order to provide support for the school, I must attend all the staff meetings and training sessions and to make sure that I’m in constant process of acquiring the full range of skills and knowledge needed to satisfy job requirements, especially as I come from a foreign country.
It is also very important that I, as a teaching assistant, I understand my roles and responsibilities in relation to school’s policies and insist that the pupils conform to the standards detailed in the school’s policy in behaviour, and if necessary, take measures to isolate (conform the policy of behaviour) a disruptive child from the rest of the class.
As stated in the title, my most important role is to provide support for the teacher, and a very important way of doing that is by participating in meetings with parents and carers, where I have to listen, support and discuss issues sensitively with them, whilst providing them an accurate feedback (K.U 1.7) Participating at these meeting is a real delight, as I can analyse the other teachers and teaching assistants and I can improve, as a teaching assistant.
One of my jobs is to listen what the children have to say. ‘Pupils can provide valuable feedback so we do need to invite them to tell us what they think.’ (E111 Reader 1, Chapter 4, My history of helpers). So far, the feedback I have received from the pupils has been very helpful, even though in certain moments I’ve been disappointed by what I heard. Thanks to this and also to the feedback received from the colleagues, I was able to realise where I have to improve. (K.S 4.3)
I have to help the teacher plan the weekly programme and sometimes , I have to supervise the class and maintain good order and keep the pupils on the task. I have to promote the home school partnership and to ensure an appropriate learning environment.
At the moment I am dealing directly with 2 teachers, offering them full support any time when required. Luckily, they are aware of the fact that between us it’s a co-dependent relationship, where I need them and they need me. (P.S 3.3) all the time I am in direct contact with the other professionals from the school and mostly with the other teaching assistants.
Every afternoon I have to set out , prepare and tidy the equipment. During classes, I must monitor and evaluate pupil’s responses to learning activities and I must provide accurate feedback and reports to the teacher.
In order to provide support for the curriculum, the school got me involved in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT ) area, even though the teachers I work with are computer literate, but this is a subject that I am very interested in. Every day I must make sure that the equipment is working properly and I must ensure that the teacher has some non-computer work handy in case something goes wrong with the power or with the computers.
The past experience is essential when working with children, with special needs or not. Not only that most of the schools are looking for experienced teachers and teaching assistants, but it is very difficult to keep up when not experienced.
Fortunately for me, I have a wide experience related to working with children, even though it’s not in United Kingdom. I started working part time in a kindergarten when I was 14 years old, and even though my attributions weren’t so many in the beginning, it really helped me understand the way children develop and sometimes I was able to see the world from their point of view. By the time I was 18 I was working full time, one on one with the classroom teacher. Kindergarten is a very important experience as it can be considered the child’s first experience in school, and I tried to help them get the most of it.
In the same time I’ve been working as a babysitter in my spare time, and my most important experience was volunteering in a centre for children with special needs. First of all I learned that it is important to listen to what children have to say, even without asking, and to respect their opinion. I think it’s amazing how children learn from constructive play. One of the most important things I did with the children in the past was helping them learn how to resolve their problems and improve their social skills, and this is one of the things I’m still doing, I’m always trying to help the pupils gain confidence and developing. Working as a waitress helped me gain my own confidence while working with the other people.
Just like in my previous jobs, I am working in a team, along two other teachers directly, but also with the secretary. According to Belbin, there are nine different roles which team members play are based on their personalities, ways of thinking: completer/finisher, coordinator, implementer, monitor/evaluator, plant, resource investigator, shaper. specialist, team worker. (Nigel Belbin, Belbin Reports). In my case, I am definitely a team worker, with strict responsibilities.
Although I would like to say that I am 100% effective in school, the truth is that I have my own strengths and weaknesses that impact my effectiveness. Unfortunately, I have a big disadvantage, as the school system in United Kingdom is new to me, but I’m willing to develop and learn as much as I can. The first thing I am doing is to have a good attitude and take initiative whenever I can.
I have to improve my skills, and one of the most important one is the communication skill. I’ll be more effective in my role if I’ll learn first of all to be a good listener and if I’ll be careful with my writing skills as well (emails, messages).
Even though at the moment it is not absolutely necessary, I have to work on my leadership skills. “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”– Dwight D. Eisenhower
Developing my skills in order to improve my effectiveness is a challenge for me, just like working in British school is. I come from a country where the style of teaching is very strict and rigid, and classes are very formal. At first, I found it difficult to adapt, but at the moment I think being able to compare the two styles of teaching is going to help me improve in front of the pupils.
Unfortunately, most of the time the training needs of the non-teaching staff are neglected. “They are seldom invited to participate in staff meetings or training events, but they can be asked to do cleaning or redecorating during the time set aside for other people’s development.” .(Action Research for Inclusive Education: Changing places, changing practice, changing minds, Forging and Strengthening Alliances, pg 49. ) It’s not the case for me, though, as I have been very well received by all the staff members and the school itself is extremely supportive, trying to help me develop as much as I can.
• The Open University (2005) E111 Supporting Learning in Primary Schools, Study Topic 1;
• School Policy of Behaviour;
• The Open University (2005) E111 Reader 1, Chapter 4, My history of helpers;
• Nigel Belbin, Belbin Reports;
• Action Research for Inclusive Education: Changing places, changing practice, changing minds, Forging and Strengthening Alliances, pg 49