School Teaching Assistant daily duties

A day in the life of a Teaching Assistant

Being a Teaching Assistant can be a fulfilling career in itself, or it can be a stepping stone into a teaching career prior to becoming a qualified Teacher. We spoke to Rosie, about her experience working as a Teaching Assistant in West London for the past two years.

Why did you choose to become a Teaching Assistant?

I left university with a degree in education studies and I always knew I wanted to work with children; I’ve done baby sitting and I'm a scout leader and I just love working with children. I’ve always worked with younger children, and I wanted to see children in a different environment, so I decided to go into a school as a Teaching Assistant. 

What qualifications did you get to become a Teaching Assistant?

I have my degree in education, and I didn’t need any further qualifications. I could do a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) to become a qualified Teacher but I’m still deciding if that is what I want to do.

What is a typical day as a Teaching Assistant?

I generally work one-to-one, which is classed as a Teaching Assistant. I am usually given more challenging children to work with as that is where my strengths lie, and every single day is different.

A typical day might start by supporting a Year 5 child in the classroom with English for the first hour. Then we have a walk, or five minutes of football, because sitting for two hours is just not on the agenda. After a break we come back in and do 45 minutes of guided reading. Then we have break time and then it’s maths up until lunch. 

In the afternoon I might work with a small group of younger children, outside of their class, who need speech and language therapy. This could be a vocabulary group for half an hour and then some one-to-one reading. Finally, I support another child with additional needs in Year 3, until home time.

What are the best bits about being a Teaching Assistant?

It is very rewarding. I've taught someone how to read. I've improved the behaviour of a few of the children. Two of them don't have speech and language issues anymore. I can see a real difference with some of the children I’ve worked with. Even just the small things, a small comment, can make it all worthwhile.

What are the least enjoyable bits about being a Teaching Assistant?

Working with more challenging children can sometimes feel like you take one step forward, two steps back, but I wouldn't change it because that is who they are. It's a vocation, so I'm choosing to do it, and I love it.

What skills have you developed through being a Teaching Assistant that you wouldn't have gained elsewhere?

Patience. It can be hard when a child is not listening, and you just have to repeat and repeat. But I think patience is how you get through to them. I have gained many new skills as well. I didn't know anything about speech and language therapy before and that's now the career path I want to take.

How has COVID-19 affected your role over the past year?

Our school had just the Teaching Assistants in, while Teachers stayed at home. I was in charge of a bubble of 12 children, some with Special Educational Needs, so it was quite intense.

I was at home some of the time, when I had to isolate, and then I was using Zoom. I was assisting the Teacher on the main Zoom lesson and then I would go into a breakout room with six children to work with them individually. I was also still doing my speech and language sessions on Zoom.

How do you inspire pupils to want to learn?

Make it fun by planning the lessons around the child, or children. For example, one of my pupils wasn't writing on the line, he was writing all over the page. He absolutely loves cars, so I made his book into a little road, and he had to write on the road. Now he doesn't need the road anymore he just knows that the lines are where he should be writing. Every child is different, so you need to change and adapt things to suit each child.

Do you have plans for any additional qualifications or career progression?

I want to do a Masters in Speech and Language Therapy. I want to continue working with children, but also with other age groups in secondary schools, colleges and universities.

What advice would you give to somebody just starting out in their career as a Teaching Assistant?

Stay positive. It is tough, but it is very rewarding. You might think children aren’t understanding what you are teaching them, and then they surprise you. I taught someone a word two years ago, and every time he sees me in the corridor, he says, “Miss I still remember that word you taught me”.

Do you have any top tips for aspiring Teaching Assistants?

Be confident and willing to get involved. You can’t be a Teaching Assistant who might be worried or scared of what the children think of you, and you must understand that kids are honest, they will say exactly how they feel. You can’t take negative things they might say to heart, and remember the lovely comments you will also get.

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