Champion Classroom Assistants and Teachers

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A guest post by Charles Christie of Education Tay

School days are an enjoyable time for many students, although for others can be a restless and challenging part of their life.  For much of my time at school I spent it looking out of the window wondering what is the teacher talking about.  Yes, I did not understand much of any subject except physical education, where I excelled.  You could say I was a slow learner academically.

High expectations of academic achievement and social progress of pupils placed on classroom assistants and a teacher in our schools today is great.  Looking back at the 6 years I spent as a secondary teacher I can say

  “I did the best I could have under the constraints placed upon me”


Teaching in our schools

The teaching profession challenges you academically, emotionally, socially and your inner character is also defined over time by how you allow the environment around you to influence it day by day. As a qualified teacher, expectations of my pupil’s progress and examination grades achievement was placed in ever hanging boundaries by politicians and head teachers.

Each term, the first department meeting would start with the head of department reminding teacher’s to install a good work ethic into all 30 pupils of each class we taught, that was 180 pupils at the school for me.  I was teaching at a large inner city school where student’s backgrounds, attitudes to learning, attendance and academic ability varied greatly.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I wanted every pupil I taught to achieve to the best of their ability socially and academically.  I would spend all day and half the night developing lesson plans & resources that incorporated mixed teaching & learning strategies in an attempt to accommodate every learner. As teachers we are informed from the previous lesson how pupils are progressing in understanding concepts, theories and applying them to solve problems.  Finding myself having to move on to the next topic with sometimes 2 or 3 pupils not understanding the previous lesson played on my conscience.

Yes, I did not meet my goal as I was constrained with lack of teaching time, absent pupils and the sheer amount of subject topics that were required to be taught.

Making changes to help me and my pupils

Even after completing my PGCE and into my second year of teaching I was still finding daily tasks, procedures, communication with others, and time constraint a bit of a challenge.  Taking the initiative myself I looked at what I could change within my control and adjusted my daily life to meet expectations of me as a teacher and to do the best I could for all students learning progress.

What I changed and adjusted

  • Made an effort to speak to all the people working at the school from office assistants, lab & it technicians, janitor, bursar, teaching & learning support assistants, and to every teacher at the school.  I was not only introducing myself, but making myself approachable, open to answer questions and give assistance if required.  This resulted in not only ongoing information & feedback, but much of the time I would receive a faster response.
  • Did not volunteer for too many events or social activities, such as carol singing, plays and sports if the time spent distracted me away from my best teaching ability.  We are all expected, and wish to contribute to school life, although there is only so much time in the day.  Saying yes to lead a school wide imitative or take part in the Christmas play can distract you away from preparing for tests & mock examinations.
  • Looked after myself physically and emotionally.  Friday evenings to 7pm on Sunday nights I arranged as my time away from school work and education. Completed test papers and exercise book were marked during school hours, and the rest was done on weekday evenings with lesson preparation.  20 minutes at lunch time, 1 or 2 free periods and arriving early to school worked a treat.
  • Made time offering to sit down and explain any topic concept or meaning with class assistants.  This offer was taken up from time to time where I would answer questions, explain a theory or show another way to solve a problem.  Always seemed to be arranged before school.
  • Communicated weekly and at times daily with teaching & learning support assistants.  This was unexpected, although welcomed by TA’S and other assistants.  Providing a scheme of work at the beginning of the school year and informing class assistants which topics were to be taught that week helped them out.  TA’s and learning support assistants can plan ahead and brush up any learning gaps on a certain topic they may have.

Do you find that learning support assistants try to get you to use certain teaching methods & strategies that may only suit the Sen Statement pupil they are helping?  A fair amount times I explained that I must teach using a variety of strategies to a class of 30 learners, and not just to suit one or two pupils.

Secondary teaching assistants

In secondary schools teaching assistants do a great job in encouraging learning and taking time to explain more difficult topic areas.  We teachers cannot give our entire class time to a small group of people that benefit from booster lessons; this is where TAs play an important part in the learning process. TA’s would take a small group of students out of the class for a few weeks and teach or give booster lessons on topic areas already covered be me in the class.  The idea was to bring each pupil up to the required standard for their predicted grade; well this is what the hod told me.

Some of my pupils in year 8 &, 9 benefited from a number of weeks intensive lessons and practice to help explain and further their subject knowledge. Maybe it was my teaching!

Like it or not, every pupil that is listed on your class register, you are responsible for their learning achievement in that subject. TAs taking pupils out of your class and missing lessons, well you better have prepared well for this.  For each lesson you should provide TA’s, or they may prepare themselves:

  • Lesson plan
  • Work sheets
  • Questions & answers
  • Materials and resource

Always ideal to give these resourses at the beginning of the day, as you will be busy teaching a class of your own.

Looking to become a teaching assistant yourself? Check out this website where they provide the role, salary, skills, career progression and example jobs.

In closing, we educators can make life easier for ourselves by creating systems for planning, marking and preparing lesson resources. Get involved in at least one activity that is not educational related away from school. Make the time to speak to people in other departments, share knowledge, good practice, and do not volunteer to lead too many school initiatives that may compromise your teaching ability.

 Charles Christie writes about teaching as a profession contributing to websites around the internet, including Education Tay