As much as classroom resources are helpful, nothing is quite as helpful as a good teaching assistant. Your teaching assistant should be your partner in the classroom. That means a relationship built on mutual respect and support. Over my time in education, I worked for a few years as a teaching assistant, this was really helpful because I had a good understanding of the role when I started teaching. If you have the opportunity to experience working or volunteering as a teaching assistant, I really recommend it.
I’ve been blessed to have some fantastic teaching assistants. However, I did work with one teaching assistant, who lacked motivation and enthusiasm. Initially, I found it very difficult to ensure she was effective in the classroom. I wasn’t sure how to provide the constructive criticism needed. However, using the ideas I’ve given below and more, her confidence and motivation grew, and we created a positive partnership. I used these ideas with every teaching assistant I worked with as they are simple to implement and really effective.
Create a communication Book
Have a book/note pad in the classroom where you and your teaching assistant can write messages to each other. This is particularly useful if your teaching assistant arrives after the start of the school day and/or leaves before the end of the school day. It’s also a useful way for your teaching assistant to pass on important information without interrupting a lesson.
Give them rough planning in advance
This does not have to be a meticulous plan, but if your teaching assistant knows in advance what groups they will be working with and what they will be learning, this well help them to focus. Of course, planning changes and you need to adapt on the fly, but this also becomes easier if the teaching assistant has a good base understanding of the lesson.
Give them regular feedback
Giving more difficult feedback is not an easy job, but if you get in the habit of giving your teaching assistant positive feedback first, then all your feedback will be taken in the way it was meant, constructively. Your teaching assistant will know that you are helping the to improve their practice and will appreciate the honesty. Just remember it’s your responsibly to help your teaching assistant to work to the best of their ability.
Arrange colleague observations and classroom swaps
Give your teaching assistant opportunities to observe other teaching assistants and teachers to help them learn more. This is especially useful if they have a key skill they need to work on. For example, if they need to improve their questioning in 1:1 reading they could observe another TA who carries out 1:1 reading interventions. Additionally, consider doing some TA swaps. This could be for a day or week, or even on a regular basis. Having these swaps gives everyone, teaching staff included, a fresh perspective and new learning experiences.
Spend some time together
Have a chat at break or lunchtimes and get to know each other. This makes you far more approachable and helps you gain a better understanding of your teaching assistant as a person. I know your time is precious but you need to give yourself a break anyway.
Your teaching assistant works hard to support you everyday so don’t forget to do the same. For example, say they are our on-break duty and you are grabbing a cup of tea, offer to get one for them. Ask them if they are okay when they don’t seem like it. Ask them if they are finding anything difficult in the classroom that they need support with. Like I said it’s a partnership, so make sure you do your bit too.