What is a Teaching Assistant (TA)?

A teaching assistant (also known as a classroom assistant, pupil support assistant, teacher’s aide, or TA) assists teachers by providing teaching and learning support in whatever way possible.

So what exactly is a teaching assistant? Some TAs provide more general assistance, while others specialize in certain areas of education, such as literacy, numeracy, music, specific learning needs, disability support, English as a second language, or behavior. There are also specialist teacher aides in language and culture for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in Australia.

Classroom assistants can be found in schools from early years to secondary. The number of TAs in one school can vary widely depending on the necessity and amount of funding provided.

What duties are involved?

A classroom assistant’s duties are likely to vary considerably, although they do exactly what you think a TA might do – assist the primary teacher and students. Their exact duties depend on the teaching assistant they are and what is required of them by the teachers and students they support.

What is a TA’s day-to-day?

A typical teaching assistant’s day may involve tasks like:

  • Preparing classrooms for lessons
  • Helping teachers plan lessons
  • Listening to students read or reading to students
  • Tidying up the classroom before and after lessons
  • Helping students who require additional support
  • Supporting teachers with managing class behavior
  • Looking after upset or injured students
  • Making resources for teachers and students
  • Providing support out of hours, such as during exams or on school excursions
  • Helping with extracurricular activities like breakfast and after-school clubs
  • Carrying out administrative tasks
  • Supervising students if the teacher is temporarily unavailable or supporting another group within the class

How else does a TA help the teacher?

TAs have the invaluable task of ensuring that each student gets the same level of support. For example, suppose a teacher has to spend additional time with a particular group of less able students. In that case, the TA will keep the remaining students occupied and on-task to continue their learning.

Essentially, a TA is there to be where the teacher isn’t. So, for example, if a teacher feels that a particular student may benefit from more one-on-one guided reading sessions, then it’s likely that the TA will take this on.

How do I become a classroom assistant?

There is no current need for professional qualifications to become a classroom assistant. Entry-level positions require basic literacy and numeracy skills (GCSE or equivalent level) and some experience in working with children. For most schools, the TA’s expertise in working with children does not necessarily have to have been in an educational setting.

However, having an entry-level qualification in educational support is often helpful, as people with such qualifications have a professional advantage. These qualifications generally come in certificates or diplomas, which are available to study at local colleges or through apprenticeships. For more specialized TA positions, specific capabilities may be required.

How can teaching assistants progress?

Once you have been a classroom assistant for some time, you may wish to progress further in your career. If that is the case, there are multiple options available to you.

For instance, some experienced teacher’s aides will go on to train as primary, secondary, or special education teachers. For people who have their hearts set on becoming teachers from the get-go, working as a classroom assistant is one great way to start a teaching career and pick up valuable experience working with children.

Other teaching assistants may wish to become more specialized in their profession by taking on additional training, such as:

  • First aid certificate
  • Training based on specialist skills, such as integration aiding, supporting gifted and talented pupils, providing support in certain school subjects, or helping students with English as a second language
  • Understanding the role of play in child learning
  • Understanding how to monitor and track student progress
  • Training on observation and evaluation
  • Learning how to engage disaffected students
  • Providing an inclusive environment for all students
  • Developing skills in learning intervention
  • Make sure you listen to the feedback
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