A teaching assistant (TA) plays a very important role in our classrooms by supporting teachers in a variety of ways. Teaching assistants help to
- Offer individualized assistance to struggling students,
- Oversee hands-on activities,
- Run small group centers, and
- Execute on a variety of other responsibilities.
TAs are valuable in all classrooms, but they are extremely helpful in class sizes that exceed normal limits.
Unfortunately, this problem is becoming more and more common, so teaching assistants are even more vital in successfully educating the next generation.
Given the importance of a teaching assistant’s role, you likely wonder what you can do to have the most impact as a TA.
Many people can perform adequately as a teaching assistant. But what makes a good teaching assistant?
Sometimes it’s easier to address the dos and don’ts for teaching assistants upfront.
- Maintain good working relationships with your teacher and students;
- Be professional and punctual in work situations; and
- Follow guidelines set forth by the school where you work.
- Argue with your teacher or other staff members in front of students;
- Demonstrate behavior you wouldn’t want a child to repeat; or
- Attempt to overrule a teacher’s authority.
These general dos and don’ts are good tips when answering, What makes a good teaching assistant?
More specifically, qualities of a good teaching assistant include compassion, passion, and understanding.
The following teaching assistant tips can help you ensure a productive school year for yourself, your students, and your teacher counterpart.
Understand Your Teacher’s Expectations
Before the school year even starts, you can begin working toward being the most effective teaching assistant possible. Once the school notifies you of the teacher that you’ll be helping, reach out to them.
Take the initiative to ask the teacher about their teaching style, preferences, and prior experience.
Understanding all these elements will help you understand your teacher’s expectations within the classroom.
Perhaps your teacher really likes group work. Being aware of this will help you to jump in on the first day to support this teaching method.
Similarly, maybe the teacher struggles with technology. You can work to become familiar with the tech that you will use in your classroom and be ready to help if needed.
It is also a good idea to get a sense of your teacher’s personal life. Are they married? Do they have kids? How do they like to spend their free time? Being aware of these aspects will help you support your teacher in maintaining their work/life balance.
It will also help you understand when are the best times to reach out to them with questions or days of the week or month that might be higher stress for them.
By understanding all these expectations and elements, you can quickly figure out how to be a good TA to them.
Make an Effort to Understand Your Students
While this might be one of the more obvious teaching assistant tips, it is an important one.
At the end of the day, you are there to support your students and their learning. By making the effort to get to know each student personally, you will be able to identify:
- When a student doesn’t understand material,
- If a student is behaving out of character, and
- How to best support each student.
If you are able to identify these instances, you will be more able to intervene appropriately. This will also allow you to alert your teacher of extra support needs a student might have.
When attempting to get to know your students, understand that some of them might be shy or take a few weeks to become comfortable in their new classroom.
Don’t forget about these students! Continue to make an effort with them, and they will eventually open up to you.
Be a Friendly Face for Your Students
School can be difficult for a lot of students for a variety of reasons. Sometimes students are
- Having a rough time at home,
- Finding it difficult to make friends,
- Not understanding their learning material, or
- Not responding to the teacher’s teaching style.
In all these situations, you can provide comfort and support to the student. If you effectively build a strong relationship with the student, they will be more likely to come to you for help when they are struggling.
By not making assumptions, listening to the student, and maintaining their trust and confidence, you can effectively mitigate most problems that students might have.
Of course, if you feel that a situation is getting out of hand, you can talk to the teacher about referring the student to someone more able to address their situation.
Be Adaptable to Your Teacher’s Lesson Plans
While it might be difficult at times, remember that you are in your classroom to help the teacher. Sometimes being a support system means accepting changes and going with the flow.
A teacher might at the last minute decide to change their lesson plan for the week. This can absolutely be frustrating for a teaching assistant, but try to trust your teacher and their instincts.
Instead of getting flustered with the teacher, ask them to explain the change to you and how you can assist them in preparing new materials.
This will relieve stress on your teacher and make you an asset to their team of educators.
Speak up If You Have an Idea
Finally, be willing to share ideas that you have to make your classroom a more productive learning environment!
Your teacher has only one perspective—their own—so if you see a different way to conduct an activity or a more concise way to teach a difficult concept, they will likely appreciate your sharing that.
Remember that teachers might not always take your suggestions, and that’s okay. You will prove to your teacher that you are a good thought partner by initiating these conversations first.
Demonstrating your innovation, problem-solving skills, and awareness of your classroom is one of the best teaching assistant tips for success.
Learn More with Stratford Career Institute’s TA Course
If you are ready to commit and become a teaching assistant, be sure to follow all of the steps in this guide to entering the profession.
However, if you feel that you need more information about being a TA and are interested in learning more about the job, Stratford Career Institute’s TA course covers:
- An introduction to the job,
- Educational requirements for the position, and
- Salary and job growth expectations for the industry.
The course might also be a good refresher class for experienced teaching assistants.
Become a Teaching Assistant
Check out Stratford Career Institute’s online class to get started.