Teachers and Teaching Assistants: Chemistry in the Classroom
Teaching assistants (TA’s) can be invaluable in the classroom. When the chemistry works well between teacher and assistant everyone benefits. TA numbers have risen from around 79,000 in 2000 to more than a quarter of a million today. However, if they are not used effectively, teaching assistants can hinder the learning process and can impact negatively on the learning experience.
The benefits that TA’s can bring to both teachers and pupils are enormous: they can help relieve the day to day – part and parcel – of the job stress and take on some of the workload. Further, they can help maintain order in the classroom and provide emotional and physical support to pupils with special needs, enabling them to enjoy and remain in mainstream education.
However, the effectiveness of teaching assistants, as with most professionals, depends largely on the level of training, qualification, and experience. And this can vary widely. Having said that, the key to how good or how effective a teaching assistant is, will depend hugely on the communication skills of both the teacher and the assistant.
Good teachers have a clear idea about the role of the TA in their classroom, and how to best utilise their skills and time. Of course, physical help is particularly welcome in the more mundane, time consuming, but necessary chores in the classroom, such as distributing and collecting equipment and paperwork, organising the classroom ready for lessons. Developing a good working relationship with a TA means teamwork and the apportioning of duties and responsibilities: it’s a teamwork thing, and to that end we’ve included a few pointers below…tips if you like, to make things go a little smoother, and more enjoyable for all;
Communicate and plan well – whether in or outside of the classroom.
Utilisation of skills – Different TA’s, different skill sets and strengths.
Develop a behaviour strategy – Work together and agree on this.
Some students need that little ‘extra’ attention on occasions – teaching assistants are ideal in certain circumstances in bringing struggling students ‘up to speed’.
A little time spent getting to know your assistant, their strengths, preferences, experience and aspirations – will enable both you and the students to benefit more in the relationship. Teaching day to day is often busy and at times, even hectic: but without any form of planning even more valuable teaching time can be wasted.
It is important for teachers and assistants to gain a mutual understanding in order to get the best out of the relationship, with confidence and respect reciprocated. When the two are working as one, the learning experience for the student is enhanced and can be made so much richer.
Assisting pupils to absorb, retain and understand knowledge in a comfortable and sociable way is our brief. We help the young better handle the challenges and uncertainties encountered during the all important, early stages of their development. It is a big ask at times but TAs contribute hugely in meeting these goals.
If you are a teacher, what is your opinion of teaching assistants in the classroom – a help or a hindrance?
If your experiences were less than positive to what do you attribute the failing? What could have made things better – made the chemistry better.