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Primary Education News
News How to work with your teaching assistant: it's a double act
While teaching assistants are vital sources of support for teachers, knowing how to manage them can be tricky. Here are some tips on making the partnership work
You have probably spent hours prepping resources, designing displays, planning activities and laminating, laminating and then laminating a bit more.
But how much thought have you put into one of your most valuable resources? Your teaching assistant (TA).
Throughout teacher training, you are crammed with a lot of information on pedagogy and practice requirements, but the skill of managing a TA is hardly discussed.
But successful lessons and good and outstanding teachers use their support staff effectively. So how can you go about this? Here are some key tips to consider:
Be clear and specific: don't assume that your TA knows what you want them to do. Think about how you would feel walking into a lesson and trying to decipher what to support the pupils with while listening to the teaching segment. It's hard to manage all of this at once, especially because you were on break duty and missed the first seven minutes.
Not all teachers have dedicated time to share and discuss lessons with their TA. But it's essential to discuss your lessons plans, expectations, focus children and so on; this will help you build a relationship with your TA and enable them to anticipate what you and the pupils will need throughout the year.
Empowering your TA to be active in lessons not only enables them to raise their profile in the classroom, but also allows you to develop an engaging environment. Involve them in lessons and build a rapport where you can bounce off each other during sessions.
The teachers and teaching assistants roles are different but both are important and your TA might have more experience in the school or with children. Be sure to acknowledge this, always speak in a professional way and when there is conflict, clear the air and address the issue.
Allowing your TA to make independent decisions that are in line with your classroom rules and behavioural strategies is very empowering. Facilitating this will help keep the class running smoothly and promotes a team approach to teaching.
As well as the benefit of building a good working environment, in the event that you are out of class for NQT time, off sick or on a course, you know that your classroom systems are being sustained, giving your pupils consistency, which is particularly vital in a primary classroom.
Build on your TA's strengths
Ask your TA about their hobbies, experiences and what they would like to do in the classroom. This will give you a great insight into their strengths, skills and interests. Over time you will find that building on your TA's skills and strengths will enable you to get the best out of them, to the benefit of you and your pupils. Also be aware that an increasing number of TAs are graduates and have very valuable transferable skills.
Everyone benefits from feedback and your TA is no different. Give them details about what works well, remain positive and give clear requests. Make sure the feedback is constructive and help your TA to see the bigger picture of what you are trying to achieve in your setting.
If you would like to find out more, Maximising the impact of teaching assistants by Anthony Russell, Rob Webster and Peter Blatchford is well worth a read.
Fundamentally, be conscious of planning for your support staff, it will empower them and allow you to have a greater impact on your pupils.