What makes a good TA

(16 Posts)
Trulydevoted Sun 25-Aug-13 18:12:31

Just looking for some advice really on what makes a good TA?

I had been volunteering for a school the past several months which I have loved. I have only just qualified in level 2 Supporting Teaching and Learning (haven't even got my portfolio back yet) however I had an interview (first ever interview in my life for a 'proper' job) for a TA post in the beginning of July and got the job!! I have never done anything like this before and absohluotely over the moon, but with September fast approaching I'm now getting anxious and nervous.

I will be working in a year 3 class with a new teacher who will also be starting in September. I met him briefly on my last day and he seems nice (I also get the feeling he is newly qualified). I was assuming that I would come in for the staff training day and he could run through a few things with me like strategies, techniques and any issues/concerns that sort of thing, but I have been told by another TA that TAs are not needed for the staff training day and that we are back the same day as the children. Is that normal practice? Should I email the school just to check but will anyone get it in time ? Or am I just panicking ? Should I just turn up on the same day as children rearing to go?

I also have 3 DSs of my own ages 7, 13 and 16 and my youngest starts his new junior school the same day I start my new job so that's another worry although dh is going to take him and pick him up for me the first 3 days as he's off work that week but I'm still feeling guilty not being there for him, plus he will have to go to breakfast club and after school everyday as I can't see myself getting out on time to pick him up. I also have my eldest starting sixth form the same week! It's going to be a manic September after such a lazy summer holiday!

Any advice would be much appreciated thanks

Jojo3973 Sun 25-Aug-13 19:54:59

Are you a general classroom assistant or are you working with a particular child? I find the worst TAs are the ones who will (while I am in the middle of teaching) bellow across the room at a child who is not paying attention. Also, I recently worked with one who was constantly giving me a running commentary of everything the kids were doing wrong and what I should be doing with them - Alice has just said crap, I think she should miss her playtime etc. the best TA I ever had used to move quietly around sitting close to disruptive influences and strugglers putting them back on track without disturbing other kids or interrupting the flow of the lesson. She would wait til after kids had left to tell me of concerns about them or to ask about how to help them. She noticed things around the classroom that needed tidying or fixing orpencils needing sharpening etc. she was very descreet if taking a child to the kitchen for breakfast if they'd had none or if a child was having issues at home.
I'm sure you'll be fine. The teacher should give you clear instructions about what he expects you to do, if you are unsure then ask. There may be some of the curriculum you haven't come across before, and the way maths is taught can differ from school to school. Better to check than to work with a group and teach confuse them.

Jojo3973 Sun 25-Aug-13 19:59:56

Also, I have never worked at a school where TAs are expected at training days. X

CaterpillarCara Sun 25-Aug-13 20:01:32

Both schools I have worked at definitely expected TAs and LSAs on training days.

Coconutty Sun 25-Aug-13 20:06:07

I have always had to go in for training days at all the schools I have worked at, I would check if I were you that you will not be expected to go in.

I work with SEN children in various settings, in class I don't talk when the teacher is talking and I try to be as helpful as possible. Different teachers want different things, just ask what they would like you to do.

Good luck and congratulations!

Trulydevoted Sun 25-Aug-13 20:53:45

I am general classroom assistant although when I met him he did mention I should focus on a particular child, and place myself near them on the carpet or at a table. Thanks for the advice, when I had been volunteering I was always careful not to distrupt lessons and to deal with any disruptive behaviour quickly and quietly so other children were not disturbed. I suppose the more I am there to deal with situations the more I will learn as I go along.

Just can't wait to get stuck in.

PlateSpinningAtAllTimes Sun 25-Aug-13 21:04:23

In our school TAs attend insets. Agree about being unobtrusive while teacher is talking, esp. When another adult nips in to talk to you about something! I really appreciate it when tas use their initiative a lot and see what needs to be done around the classroom and just do it, without needing to be told a continuous list of 'would you mind doing xyz?'. I don't enjoy the displays/organising the classroom type jobs though- other teachers may like to be more 'in control' of everything. It would be worth keeping an open dialogue with the class teacher about this and seeing how many tasks he wants to be in charge of and how many he's happy to hand over. Good luck- I think you'll be fab smile.

Trulydevoted Sun 25-Aug-13 21:06:59

Thanks coconutty I will check myself whether I am needed. I might give them a ring on the morning of the staff training day as I'm not sure whether office staff are in before that.

PlateSpinningAtAllTimes Sun 25-Aug-13 21:08:58

Over time, when you get used to the age group and ability levels in the class, you may want to familiarise yourself with Internet printable resources that you could keep a stash of in case you have a scenario where 1 or 2 children are really struggling with a certain concept, particularly in maths. Obviously check with the teacher though, so he doesn't feel undermined. I had a ta that was fab at this.

Trulydevoted Sun 25-Aug-13 21:28:33

Platespinning sounds like a good idea to have some printable resources. I like to think I have used my initiative when I had been volunteering and the class teacher gave me a brilliant report for my portfolio. Also my extra unit I chose was displays which she left down to me and I loved doing that and getting all the children involved and it turned out really well.

sheridand Mon 26-Aug-13 11:35:06

I am now a HLTA, but am also a qualified teacher, i'm just returning to work after a career break. I try to be like the really good TA's I used to have.....I hope I am!

One thing I do like to have is a couple of tray, one for things "in" and the other for things "out". The teacher can plonk anything that needs doing in it, without having to ask, it's usually fiddling lettrring for displays, photocopying, interventions for that day whatever, and then i plop it into the other tray when done. It saves a lot of time, and classrooms can be VERY messy, so it stops things being lost.

I also keep a filing drawer of all my interventions, and a pocket for each child I work in small groups or one on one with. I find it's very important to be otganised, as the teacher will need evidence of what's gone on in interventions for reports and assessments, and it's very helpful to be able to just hand it all over when it's needed, saves them a lot of time.

One things I have noticed is that teachers are very good at sharing resources and things, but TA's seem less so, probably because so many of us are "floating" and going from place to place, so I've found it very helpful to make friends with them all, and offer and share any resources i've made, as i've got some brilliant advice back.

Be prepared enough to do interventions at short notice, to provide off the cuff work when needed, as sometimes it becomes obvious to the teacher during normal lesson time that a particular child/ group hasn't "got it" and so off you will go to help them.

Always make sure you have a whiteboard pen that works. For you and the teacher. Similarly, the amount of time wasted when there are not enough pencils/ pens/ mini whiteboards has to be seen to be believed, check, check, check!

Second the not talking over the teacher, it's really annoying! I like the hover and non-verbal tecnique of stopping off-task behaviour.

I also like to note when it's the teachers' PPA time and see what I can do to help, and similarly, know when "your" teacher is on break duty and bring them a cuppa to the classroom! Lastly, when there are goodies in the staffroom, if your teacher isn't there, bring them a slice of cake so they don't miss out. This is VERY important!

Trulydevoted Mon 26-Aug-13 12:42:11

sheridand thank you some good advice. I plan to keep a portfolio of situations I have been in and note down what child/children have done/said and how I have dealt with it and what I done/said just so that I can refer to at later a date. And also photo evidence of any dislplays I thought may be a good idea.

sheridand Mon 26-Aug-13 13:18:17

Yes, do keep a record of displays. We have to double back all our lettering and it takes AGES: my rule is,blue tack only, no staples, and stick to one colour scheme for all letters, then you can re-use some of them. You would not believe how time consuming cutting out lettering is! It's my pet hate.

The other thing i'd say is, agree in advance a time for you to do all your housekeeping. Housepoints, housepoint cards, sticker charts, target charts, all take up time and they have to be done, usually in time for a particular assembly, so you really need to have a set time to get that sort of thing done, or your lunchtime will vanish!

A good TA is worth their weight in something more valuable than gold! In my NQT year my TAs were simply brilliant.

Develop some tasks that become yours that the teacher can trust you to just get on with. Might be the weekly spelling test, reading with key children during register time, changing the reading books, sorting out the house points, etc

Displays and lettering - find out whether the school has a policy or your teacher has a preferred style and use that. I like letters themed for each topic; time consuming at first but I now have a bank of existing ones I can get out. In Powerpoint you can use "Text fill" to put any image into the text itself. 400+ pointsize for BIG text :-) wallpapersus.com/category/abstract/ is ace for background textures and pictures. Or use www.instantdisplay.co.uk/alphabetsets.htm or primarytreasurechest.com/display-lettering.html for pre-done funky lettering. Another idea is cutting letters from wrapping paper or holographic card.

I have found it helpful for the TA to be the first port of call for routine medicines, feeling unwell, friendship issues, forgotten lunch/homework/PE kit / etc. That leaves the teacher free to deal with only the more significant issues.

Agree with the teacher what their preferred method of communication is about jobs - notebook, tray, expanding file, folders ... Make sure it includes deadlines or a priority system so that you don't spend ages cutting out the lettering for next Friday when this afternoon's sheets haven't been copied yet.

I would certainly make yourself available for the inset day. Some training sessions are for all staff, plus there may well be classroom prep for you to get on with (My new TA has a batch of stuff waiting to laminate, cut out and guillotine. If she's not able to get it done then it's a very late night for me on Tuesday!)

Trulydevoted Mon 26-Aug-13 18:24:03

ReadytoOrderSir thank you I will definitely take on board everything you have said. And thanks for the links. I'm able to stay til 4pm everyday so I thought I might use this time for anything I need to do before the chaos starts again at home hehe.

I have also got to do midday meals supervision which I have no experience at all as when volunteering I just stayed in the classroom and helped the teacher get ready for the afternoon whilst we ate our lunch, so have no idea what the dinner hall is like! And the prospect of the staff room terrifies me hehehe.

MrsWeasley Mon 26-Aug-13 18:35:34

someone should tell you what is expected and when. In my school the TAs deal with the monies coming in for dinners, trips etc. We have certain people who we listen to read as often as possible (the teacher will let you know who these are). Depending on your school timetable you may have small groups to work with at certain times. If in doubt ask!
At lunch times there will be other members of staff they should show you the ropes. Its great being a 'dinner lady' too as the children really open up and tell you things they don't in class.
Have fun and enjoy.

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