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Teachers - What do you want from your TA?

(16 Posts)
Paddlinglikehell Mon 28-Jan-13 13:40:07

I am about to start a Level 2 Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools. A local school has offered me a voluntary placement throughout the course and it is several hours at college a week

My ultimate aim is to qualify and then combine this with my BSL, in providing support for Deaf children.

I will be starting next week in a Year 3 class (my dd is in this year at another school), and I have been into class and assemblies in the past giving talks about my previous job and doing workshops, but I don't really have any hands on class experience.

What would you like your voluntary helper to be in your classroom? What would you expect?, What is the etiquette? How can I best help the teacher?

Thanks for taking the time, I have had volunteers working with me in the past and I know that in that job, they could be a hinderence and I don't want that!

Ferguson Mon 28-Jan-13 18:30:33

Hi - exTA (male) here :

I was a TA for 12 years, but started as a parent helper when my DS started primary school. I worked mostly in KS1, but also with all ages from nursery to Yr 10 in a tough comprehensive.

Assuming the teacher is a good one, she should give you all the guidance you need. Just support the children AND the teacher in whatever lesson/activity is taking place. In particular, look out for things the children may get up to behind her back; some teachers seem to have eyes in the back of their head and bionic ears, but if you do see poor behaviour or slacking don't be afraid to quietly intervene.

If there are any SN kids, or less able ones, they might be most deserving of your help. When supporting reading, don't tell a child a word they don't know, but try to encourage them to sound it out (using whatever phonics/decoding system the class uses). Similarly in other subjects, try to point them towards the answer so they can work it out for themselves. Sometimes a child might give an incorrect answer because he has misheard or misunderstood, but the teacher may not pick up on that. Also, gently encourage the shy, reluctant children to give answers. Give plenty of praise for good work, but don't stop to correct every incorrect detail, particularly if a child is really trying their best.

Any special skills you have that can be used in a school context might be appreciated by the teacher - art, music, science, sport, etc - but don't offer this straight away or you might be seen as too 'pushy'!

The voluntary helper can be in a fortunate position to have time to observe children, noticing any who seem unhappy, worried etc and giving them a sympathetic 'ear'. Probably the best thing I ever did was in a term as voluntary helper, between two employments. A Yr 1 Down's boy was fascinated by computers, but his lack of fine motor skills prevented him using mouse or keyboard. I found a learning website for people with disability, that only required him to press the space-bar, and this he could manage. With the permission of his teacher I let him use the various activities: making a rocket take off at the end of the countdown; jumping across a chasm by pressing the space-bar at the correct moment; creating patterns and matching shapes, etc. He was so thrilled to be able to control the computer for the first time, instead of just having to observe other children doing it; in a small way it changed his life, and it also boosted his skills so that his hand control quickly improved, and he could use the computer in the normal way.

Good luck, and enjoy!

IHeartKingThistle Mon 28-Jan-13 18:54:04

I think your career plans sound lovely and so do you. So don't take these the wrong way! I'm secondary so it'll be a bit different, but based on some baaad TAs I've had in the past, here are some tips from me:

turn up
turn up on time
don't leave the SECOND the bell rings just because you can
when the teacher says 'everyone quiet' that means you too
when the teacher says 'everyone's bags off the table' that means you too
don't write everything down for a student while they sit there with their head on the desk
don't be too much of a 'presence' in the room if the child you're supporting is embarrassed about getting support

Basics, you'd think, no? Can you tell I've had some terrible TAs?! I didn't even add 'don't shout at a child for not reading properly'. Yep, seen that one too!

Disclaimer: I have also worked with some truly amazing TAs who genuinely made it feel like we were working as a team and got the best out of the supported students. I'm not totally negative!

IHeartKingThistle Mon 28-Jan-13 18:55:28

Oh and I know you won't do any of those things - just having a rant really!

peppajay Mon 28-Jan-13 20:06:02

Hi I am starting a Level 2 TA course next week and volunteer 2 days a week in my childrens school. I do mainly what the teacher asks me to do sometimes boring photocopying, or sticking worksheets but I tend to do these jobs when the teacher is busy teaching the whole class. When I am not doing 'jobs' I tend to sit on the carpet and look for children who look confused or need help. I have been helping for a year now so I know wqhich children benefit from a bit of extra help but I also try to always check the more able ones are ok as sometimes in a classroom setting they get forgotten. I have more responsibility now and often take a child out and do some one to one work with her as she isnt classed as special needs but she is well below what an average yr 2 child is and the teacher says the half hour I spend with her each week is a great help.

I usually get a break for a cup of tea when the kids get their playtime but if the teacher asks me to help get some work ready for after lunch I will always help.

The thing I find really hard is the disipline side of things especially as I know quite a few children in the classes I help in personally. The worst thing is getting texts from other mums asking if their child is behaving!!!

Hope this helps x

Paddlinglikehell Mon 28-Jan-13 22:13:36

Thank you, all points very helpful.

I am really looking forward to it as I have always enjoyed being with children and how they learn, I fund it al fascinating.

I do so want to be a help to a teacher, so all comments welcome.

havingastress Mon 28-Jan-13 22:17:10

The worst TA's I've had are the ones that turn up JUST as the lesson is starting and leave the minute it's over.

I'd like my TA to be there 2-3 mins beforehand so I can brief accordingly, and to stay afterwards for 5 mins so we can talk about how the lesson went, how were the pupils they were with etc.

I do find it very annoying that some TA's won't even discuss pupils at break/lunch etc because it's 'their' time and they don't get paid for it! We could all pull that line!

Be available. Communicate. Work as a team. grin

poshbeaver Mon 28-Jan-13 22:27:15

One who can double mount work with an equal, straight border all the way round. Cut round letters without leaving jagged bits (these are current bug bears!)
All the sensible ones already mentioned too!

simpson Mon 28-Jan-13 22:27:21

I currently volunteer (for the same qualification you want to do) in a reception class and have been there (one day a week since September)...

My main challenge was learning the kids names blush as the placement is not in my kids school.

I have done anything from a basic phonics lesson with flash cards and helping a small group of kids blend the words, taking various kids to the sick bay, playing with them in the garden/playground, cooking with them, helping out on the craft table and being a 121 for a child with SN sitting in assembly. I also got to help with the Christmas preparation for their Christmas play and got invited to watch it (the school is big and has a ticket only policy - I totally embarrassed myself by sobbing through it all blush)..

The teacher generally gives me the class camera too to snap pics of what the kids are doing whilst they are working or having a PE lesson or cooking etc...

I have had to discipline kids who are fighting in the class and the teacher (who does not have eyes in the back of her head) had not noticed.

We are also encouraged to have a pen and roll of sticky labels in our pocket to make a note if a child says something really interesting/understands something difficult.

But I am loving it, and already I can see the really shy ones blossom from how they were in September.

I also read in my DC school with yr1, 2 and 4. I love that too ( although prefer KS1 tbh)..

simpson Mon 28-Jan-13 22:29:00

Also little things like when they come in from lunch and have to line up, I automatically start a head count to work out who is there (and not)...

Enjoy it!!! You will soon work out the daily routine.

Isesgirl Tue 29-Jan-13 11:53:05

I am also doing a Helping in Schools course and turned up last Thursday for my pre-arranged placement to assist with reading. I was there on time and was told to wait near the office for the teachers concerned. When I realised no-one was coming I went back to the office and they got a passing child to take me to one of the classrooms! I had to interrupt the teacher because the class has already started. She was rather disgruntled about this but settled me in the corner of the cloakroom (!) at a small desk and gave me a list of children to listen to when they read their books. I listened to each one read and asked them to send the next child on the list. All went well and then the bell went for end of school. I wrote a few notes for each child but the teacher had disappeared. I waited but she didn't return so I left my notes on her desk. It's all very well asking what the teachers expect of TA's but teachers also need to help the TA, especially when they are inexperienced. I am going to go in early on Thursday and collar the teachers concerned, ask them what they expect of me, what to look out for when reading, how I can help the slower children more, and a couple of notebooks I can write in with my comments so that they can see what I have done. I cannot see how on earth they can write a report on me for my course with so little involvement.

Ilovesunflowers Tue 29-Jan-13 13:13:54

As an ex teacher I would have liked the TA in my class to be postive and supportive to the children but to completely understand that they aren't there to befriend the pupils.
Someone who is neat and tidy in the classroom i.e. high quality display work, not leaving paperwork, mugs etc around!

Someone who is willing to help with the paperwork side of things e.g. filing reading levels, practice SAT scores etc.

Someone proactive. If they see something wrong, solve it. Tell me later! However it is something that is child protection related follow the school procedure to the letter.

Someone who would come to me first if they had a problem with my work or with the running of the classroom or even if they just had a simple observation e.g. if the pencils were here Sammy wouldn't be able to throw them at Ben! Someone professional. Someone who is friendly with the parents but not too familiar!

Someone basically willing to do anything that is needed in the classroom/a can do attitude e.g. anything from changing nappies on an incontinent child to getting a child breakfast if they've come in without any. Someone who puts the children first.

It would also be great if we can 'get on' in a professional manner but also like each other personally too! I've always been very lucky and a good TA is worth their weight in platinum and diamonds.

Snowyelephantshavewrinkles Tue 29-Jan-13 19:07:41

Am an LSA but one of my bug bears that students tend to do is interrupt when they see a child is it doing what they are supposed to whilst I have them n the carpet. If you an catch the child's eye and frown then great but if not trust that the person in who has the children will be ok.

Fairenuff Wed 30-Jan-13 21:02:36

Confidentiality is paramount. Tell parents that you cannot discuss their children with them. Especially important if your friends are already texting you and asking about this.

Your school will have policies for everything from health and safety to behaviour. Get copies and read up on them when you have time.

Model good behaviour and impeccable manners. Praise the children often for their efforts as well as the results. Be firm and fair and try to find time to get to know the children and build a positive, professional realtionship with them.

Don't be afraid to ask the teacher how you can best be of service.

JustAHolyFool Wed 30-Jan-13 21:09:27

Follow the teacher's lead on behaviour management - I do not appreciate my nice calm classroom being ruined by a TA who screams at children.

Actually turn up - I do not expect to have to send a pupil up to the classroom to find you during PE.

Don't talk when the teacher is talking, if I have asked for quiet, I expect it from everyone.

If you're in my classroom, stay in my classroom. We used to have a couple of floating TAs, and they took the floating part very seriously. They'd stay for 5 minutes then piss off somewhere else for 5 minutes. Then come back...then is majorly disruptive.

You are not there to be mates with the kids.

Good TAs are worth their weight in gold, and I think the fact you're asking for advice means you'll be great, OP!

Fairenuff Wed 30-Jan-13 21:10:15

Oops, sorry, the texting thing wasn't you op, but still, bear it in mind if any parents try to ask about their children, direct them to the teacher unless you are specifically authorised to speak with them.

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