Working with Teaching Assistants

TAs are great!

We all know that are our teaching assistants are great!

In my ‘Tid Bits‘ for teaching, I said that working with adult support was one of the important pieces of advice. For today’s waffle I thought I would concentrate on working with adults within the classroom and detail some of the ways I promoted working in an effective partnership.

A recent article on the TES website reported that

More than 80 per cent of teaching assistants (TAs) have seen their workload increase in the last year, with one in 10 clocking up more than six hours of unpaid overtime every week, a new survey has revealed.

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There is no doubt in my mind, that this is completely true, since I consider TAs to be one of the most dedicated and committed people working within the school. However, it is important that we, as teachers, utilise their expertise without taking advantage of this dedication. What follows are some pointers that I have used in the past to develop this effective partnership – some of these might be relevant and might work for you, other may not. If you have any of your own then please let me know in the comments below.

  • Know you, knowing your TA – TAs are all different. I mean this in the nicest possible way. Just like teachers, they all work in different ways and at different times. They have different expertises and different priorities within their lives. In order to develop an effective working partnership it is important that you both take the time to get to know each other’s strengths and expertise. Some TAs which I have worked with will come into the class earlier but finish their hours with the children, while others start at the same time as the kids but will work their hours after school. Knowing and understanding this is important. This will allow you to work with your TA and is an important starting point for the points below. Have lunch in the staffroom together or chat at playtime over a coffee – remember its not an interview, its a friendly chat.
  • Strengths and Expertise – After you have got to know your TA you can start to work more effectively. I always work towards the strengths of my TA. I have worked with extremely creative TAs who appreciate the involvement in displays and the more creative side of the curriculum, while others who’s skills have been in taking the top group of mathematicians. Although the both continued to support in all aspects of teaching and the curriculum, they enjoyed and had an impact on the children’s learning when working to their strengths. You, as the teacher, need to provide them with opportunities for them which plays to their strengths.
  • Develop a job system – One thing that I was extremely guilty of (slapped wrists for me) was often providing more and more jobs for my TA to complete, without maintaining an overview of what I was giving. I think it is often too easy to say ‘can you please do this’, especially when we are working towards deadlines, without realising how much we have actually given the TA to do. One way I worked to reduce this was to ensure that I presented some sort of timescale for the jobs. This might be – “Help I need this now!” or, “We will need this next week on Tuesday”. This allows the TA to prioritise the work and use their available time to complete the jobs.
  • Provide time – We all accept that TAs are the first to provide extra time and support to us as teachers above and beyond what they are paid for. They do this in addition to all their other work/family commitments. We all appreciate and value this extra time and I think it is important that we work with them to some how ‘compensate’ them for the time. Try to rearrange your teaching so that you can provide your TA with ‘pay back’ time. They will never request it so you need to be proactive here. If I asked my TA to provide some feedback for a group that they were working with, then I would not plan to use them in the plenary, so they had time to mark and feedback on the work. If they worked on a school play the night before, then I would not plan to use them the first lesson in the morning. They often came in and got on with things, but the time was there if they wanted it. I feel that this goes a long way to recognising our appreciation of them.
  • While writing this waffle I have been worried that I am not coming across in the way I want to. These points are things we can do as teachers to support both our TAs and our working relationship with them. There will be TAs reading this who can add further information and ways of working, so always discuss and work together. Remember keep up to date with my waffles by subscribing to;

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    Have fun and catch you later!