Advice for first time teaching assistants

Teaching assistants are an integral part of any school. They’re able to step in at a moments notice, help support newer members of staff and provide additional guidance to students and pupils throughout the day.


However, if you’re just starting out as a teaching assistant, it can seem overwhelming. That’s why this month we wanted to provide first time teaching assistants with some helpful advice and steps they can take before they start their first day.


Find out about the different policies in place


This may sound obvious, but one of the first things that you should do when you’re visiting a school on your first day is to find out about the policies that they have in place already. These may be useful if you have any specific questions about how they work.


In particular, find out about the school behaviour policy. It doesn’t always happen, but in some cases, children may act differently and misbehave with a teaching assistant, which they wouldn’t always do with their regular teacher.


If you’re going to be supporting children with particular learning needs, then it’s important that you know who to report to, or who to ask for assistance, should you need to during the day.


Be flexible in your approach


Despite the fact that the school may have hired you to help in a specific classroom, you could be asked to provide additional support if there are any staff absences or events during the day. Remember, schools and nurseries have a duty of care to their pupils, which means that you may have to help in multiple classrooms to make sure their learning isn’t interrupted.


Identify pupils that may need extra support


As we’ve already mentioned, you may be asked to help provide additional care for some students, but it’s also important that you identify which pupils may need additional support with their learning.


The teacher may already have a list of pupils that they give extra attention to, so make sure you ask before the lessons start. If they don’t, then focus on who answers more questions, which pupil tends to stay quiet during group discussions or who looks blank when given a certain task.


Establishing which pupils need extra support means that you’re able to use your skills to help their personal development, which in turn gives the teacher extra time to focus on the rest of the class.


Additional administration and preparation


Depending on how the school operates and how the teacher that you’re assigned to help works, some teaching assistants are asked to mark papers and help grade exams. They may also task you with creating and editing worksheets and lesson plans, workbook handouts and exam preparation.


When it comes to this additional work, it’s important that you approach it in a flexible manner. This not only helps the full-time member of staff, but it also gives you an insight into how the school works, should you go back to another role in the future.


Above all else, stay calm


If there’s one thing that first time teaching assistants should remember is to keep calm. A new school can be a stressful environment, and it can be easy to become overwhelmed with everything you’ll have to learn.


If you get stressed, it’s going to have a negative impact on your own performance and on the progress of the learning of the pupils. If you’re struggling, ask for help, existing members of the team will be more than happy to support you.



Further reading


If you’re considering a move into teaching, want to top up your skills or are simply interested in learning more, then take a look at the articles listed below:



In summary, if you take your first day with a flexible, open approach, are able to take notes and throw yourself into the workings of a new school, then you’ll be a great fit. Remember to keep calm and if in doubt, ask for help.


Remember, if you’re searching for a new position or want to further your educational career, then we’re here to help. We have plenty of positions registered on our jobs board, so go and take a look to see what’s on offer.

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