Do’s & Don’ts For New Teaching Assistants + 10 Useful Tips
For those looking for a career pathway into teaching, a teaching assistant role can provide abundant useful classroom experience.
But with nerves and new surroundings, settling into a new school or job can present its challenges, although that shouldn’t put you off from what can be a highly rewarding and highly enjoyable role.
If you’re just starting out as a teaching assistant, we have tips to help you on your way, from guidance on lesson plans and behaviour to knowing who to ask for assistance.
What new teaching assistants should do:
- Build Relationships: Establish a strong rapport with the lead teacher, students, and other staff members.
- Clarify Expectations: Understand your roles and responsibilities by communicating with the teacher and attending training sessions.
- Be Proactive: Offer assistance when you see a need, but also ask if unsure about something.
- Stay Organised: Keep track of lesson plans, student progress, and other administrative duties to help the teacher run a smooth class.
- Continue Learning: Attend workshops and professional development sessions to keep up-to-date with the latest teaching techniques.
- Maintain Confidentiality: Respect students' privacy, records, and classroom incidents.
- Show Patience: Students learn at different paces and may require different approaches.
- Be Adaptable: Be ready to adjust to dynamic classroom situations and switch between tasks as needed.
- Collaborate Effectively: Work harmoniously with the teacher, offering appropriate insights and feedback.
- Use Positive Reinforcement: Encourage and praise students, focusing on their strengths to motivate them.
- Stay Professional: Dress appropriately, be punctual, and avoid discussing personal problems in the classroom.
- Promote Inclusivity: Ensure all students, regardless of background or ability, are included and engaged in the classroom.
- Seek Feedback: Regularly ask the teacher and sometimes students for feedback to continuously improve.
What new teaching assistants shouldn't do
- Avoid Overstepping: Don't assume the role or authority of the lead teacher.
- Don't Play Favourites: Avoid giving undue attention to any particular student.
- Avoid Being Unprepared: Always be ready for the day's tasks and potential challenges.
- Don't Publicly Disagree: If you have disagreements with the lead teacher, discuss them privately.
- Avoid Negativity: Steer clear of gossip and don’t badmouth students, staff, or the institution.
- Don't Ignore Policies: Familiarise yourself with the school’s policies and ensure you always follow them.
- Avoid Overdependence: While guidance is essential, don't rely too much on the teacher without trying to handle situations yourself.
- Don't Disregard Feedback: If given criticism or advice, take it constructively.
- Avoid Inconsistency: Ensure you’re consistent in enforcing rules and providing assistance.
- Don't Neglect Self-care: Remember to take breaks and manage stress to remain effective in your role.
The 10 most important skills for a Teacher Assistant
- Communication Skills: Clear verbal and written communication is crucial for interacting with teachers, students, and parents.
- Interpersonal Skills: Building strong relationships with students, teachers, and staff is essential.
- Organisational Skills: Managing tasks, resources, and time efficiently.
- Patience: It’s often required when dealing with students of different abilities and backgrounds.
- Adaptability: Flexibility in addressing different learning styles and classroom scenarios.
- Initiative: Proactively addressing issues or tasks in the classroom.
- Teamwork: Working well with the lead teacher and other staff members.
- Problem-solving: Thinking on your feet and effectively addressing classroom challenges.
- Technical Proficiency: Being comfortable with classroom technology, software, and tools.
- Cultural Sensitivity: Recognising and valuing the diversity of students and their backgrounds.
Top 10 Tips For Teaching Assistants
1. Passion can inspire
Your body language and approach to tasks will ultimately rub off on the pupils around you, so any teaching assistant should be as passionate as possible about the tasks that are set to inspire those they help.
If you’ve spoken to the teacher beforehand about lesson plans, it can be much easier to be enthusiastic if you know what is coming up.
2. Remember to smile!
To make the most of a teaching assistant role, you should be as welcoming and approachable as possible.
Constantly smiling, even if you’re not in the best of moods, can help break down barriers with pupils and make them more likely to feel they can approach you for assistance.
3. Get to know the pupils quickly
Building relationships with pupils is a vital part of being a teaching assistant, as it hugely influences your ability to carry out the role effectively and show that you are invested in their learning.
This includes learning their names, which allows you to communicate more effectively, alongside any specific details that may impact their ability to learn from relevant education, health and care (EHC) plans.
4. Be proactive!
Teaching assistants support teachers to minimise disruption if issues occur – you should be proactive in such situations, as you have a pivotal role in keeping the class on track.
5. Encourage pupils to question work
By encouraging pupils to be inquisitive, a teaching assistant can enhance their understanding of the work in front of them.
Working in smaller groups or on a one-to-one basis can be particularly useful as it can encourage pupils to speak out who may otherwise choose not to.
6. Don’t expect to know everything
As a teaching assistant, you could easily end up helping with subject matter that you are unfamiliar with – but it shouldn’t be a reason to panic.
You’ll still know more than the pupils in the classroom, so you should still be able to think of ways to take critical approaches to the topics – again, talking through lesson plans in advance with the teacher can make this process much easier.
7. Look for help!
From speaking to teachers and other teaching assistants to doing your own research online, there are a number of people and avenues that you can explore for help.
More experienced staff may know of approaches you can use to tackle certain behavioural issues or other types of disruption – all you need to do is ask!
8. Flexibility is key
As teaching assistants work with various school staff, all of whom will have different approaches, flexibility becomes an essential part of the role.
You should be ready to adapt to new teaching styles and numerous different learning styles too.
9. Don’t be afraid to speak out
Communication between teaching assistants and teachers is pivotal to ensuring that both individuals can work to their maximum potential.
Clear instructions and feedback enable teachers to understand your way of working, which is beneficial to both them and the pupils your support.
10. Always think about how you can make a difference
Being a teaching assistant gives you a unique means of supporting pupils to achieve their full potential and enjoy their time in the classroom.
Consider how the tasks you are doing can make a difference to the pupils you support, as this should enable both you and them to get the most out of each learning situation.
For more advice, check our blog, which covers the best answers to common teaching assistant interview questions.
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