There is no disputing that Teaching Assistants play an integral role in the day-to-day running of the classroom. Without them, teachers would find it much harder to manage the class and ensure that all of their students – no matter their abilities – are fully supported and heard.
Yet what exactly do Teaching Assistants do? What does their day-to-day life consist of?
A day in the life of a Teaching Assistant
Whether you are considering exploring this rewarding career niche for yourself, or you are simply interested in knowing how your child’s Teaching Assistant helps in the classroom; there is something you need to know. No day is ever the same.
At the core of their job, a Teaching Assistant’s mission is to assist in the smooth implementation of the school curriculum. To ease the flow of teaching throughout the day, they may develop daily plans, organize extra co-curricular activities, and create overviews of subjects with the help of resources from The Teaching Couple, or a similar platform. This is a generalized description of the responsibilities that pertain to the role of an assistant.
Depending on their experience and qualifications, however, what one Teaching Assistant does won’t always be the same as another.
Take the following typical day. Most Teaching Assistants experience/take part in the following:
- Before students arrive, TA’s (Teaching Assistants) help the class teacher to set up the classroom and prepare for the day. This can take the form of arranging desks and chairs (for set activities); preparing and organising materials (printing/photocopying papers and worksheets), and making sure the teacher has everything they need to teach the class.
- Once the children arrive, they will help younger students to hang up their coats and get settled before the start of class. This can range from chatting to them about the coming activities or encouraging them to get prepared and excited for the lesson.
- During class, TA’s help to: settle disruptive children; answer questions (when the teacher is busy with another student); break up conversations (when the teacher is talking); minimise disruption; hand out materials and tasks; assist students with their work (supplying feedback and encouragement); organise/split children into smaller groups (when necessary), and keep the class focused.
- One of the bigger tasks assigned to TA’s is working one-on-one with students who: are struggling with particular subjects; may have behavioural problems/learning difficulties or have SEND. By working alongside each individual child they can help them to fully engage with the class, as well as give them the chance to more openly speak about what they are struggling with.
- Outside of the classroom – for instance during breaks and lunchtime – they may be asked to help out on the playground, ensuring all children play safely and responsibly. Similarly, they may oversee the distribution of snacks and drinks, whilst helping to tidy up the mess afterwards.
- An integral role TA’s play is interacting with students and being sensitive to their needs and worries. If they are upset or having a bad day, a TA may take them out of the classroom, so they can talk more freely about what is upsetting them. In turn, if the child is acting out, a TA will take them out and give them time to cool down, whilst also working to address/find out the cause of the problem.
- If the school offers extra-curricular activities, then TA’s may be asked to supervise. This can include assisting with sports clubs, games, and arts and crafts, or simply monitoring After School Clubs.
- Should the teacher suddenly fall ill, TA’s may be asked to take over the class and lead the lesson. This usually occurs when a substitute teacher cannot be found; however, if they have got the skills and the qualifications, TA’s may be asked to teach the class for the entire day. In either case, it is important that they are fully aware of how well every child is doing, and are able to lead the class confidently.
- Outside of the classroom, TA’s are regularly asked to: grade work; mark exams; create/edit worksheets, handouts and exams, and offer teachers ideas on lessons and how to present them (although these ideas won’t always be taken into consideration – depending on the teacher).
Why would their day vary?
Whilst most of the above tasks are a common occurrence in every Teaching Assistants day, there are exceptions to the rule.
For instance, if you have got a Level 3 qualification in Special Educational Needs, you may find that your entire day is spent working one-on-one with a particular student as you teach them their class syllabus.
Similarly, if you have got a higher education Teaching Assistants qualification, then this will allow you to more actively participate in the classroom and take part in structuring the lesson plan. In fact, with this particular qualification you will be given more opportunities to lead the class on your own, and influence how the syllabus is taught.
Another occasion where you may have chance to plan activities or even entire lessons, is if you are a native English speaking Teaching Assistant working abroad within a non-native English environment. In this situation, you would help them with pronunciation and speaking when addressing the class. You may even be allowed to take charge of this section of the syllabus.
As we mentioned before, your life as a Teaching Assistant can vary and will greatly depend on the school you are working at and the relationship you have with the teacher. However, if you are genuinely interested in becoming a Teaching Assistant, then you can expect much of the above when planning your day.
All you really need in your arsenal is great organisational and communication skills; the ability to use your initiative, and the right qualifications. Luckily, it is easy to acquire these skills thanks to the range of online Teaching Assistant courses that are currently available. Designed for home study, you can learn on your own terms, in your own time and around your current commitments.