Being a teaching assistant can be tough at times, and it’s sometimes hard to figure out whether what you’re doing is right. Our guide is going to help you identify a few common issues that might come up in your job as a teaching assistant and how you can avoid them!

1. Undermining the teacher

As a teaching assistant you’re meant to be supporting the learning of your students and helping your teacher to deliver it in the best way possible, but while trying your best to be helpful it can be easy to get carried away and end up being unintentionally disruptive to your teacher and students. 

Interrupting the teacher or questioning their work in front of the class is going to undermine their authority and be unhelpful to the class’s learning. If you have an issue with the teacher it’s best to talk it over outside of lessons so that you can resolve it without disrupting the class.

You should always keep in mind that you’re there to support learning, not lead it. Work with your teacher to figure out what level of participation they’re comfortable with and what you can do to best support each other. Your positions shouldn’t be adversarial and it’s best for you to work together to deliver the best quality learning you can. Try to have regular meetings with your teacher to find what best suits the class (which includes the both of you).

2. Doing work for pupils

A teaching assistant’s role means that they should be helping their pupils to achieve rather than simply doing the work for them. Even though that might seem obvious, many TAs fall into the trap of offering too much help to pupils.

Whenever this happens it’s usually out of good intentions, with teaching assistants wanting to make sure struggling students can get through the set work alongside the rest of the class, but will often result in them not understanding everything fully because they haven’t actually completed it themselves. 

As an alternative, struggling pupils might have extra tuition to ensure they’re able to catch up on the work at their own pace and on their own merit, but that’s just one suggestion. If a pupil needs extra support or is particularly struggling it’s a good idea to discuss the issue with your teacher, as well as the pupil’s parents if needed to try and come up with a workable solution that suits everyone.

3. Not getting their qualifications

Just because a teaching assistant won’t necessarily need qualifications to get the position doesn’t mean they aren’t hugely useful to have. Having your teaching assistant qualification is going to ensure you have the knowledge you need to help the pupils that you’re working with and perform your job to a higher standard. 

Making sure you have your teaching assistant qualification means you’ll become an even more valuable member of the classroom and it could help you to progress further in the position if you’re looking to get ahead. You could move onto a more specialised role or eventually become a higher level teaching assistant.

All of the things we’ve talked about are really easy to do when working as a teaching assistant, often with the best intentions, so it’s always a good idea to evaluate yourself and how you’re working with both students and other staff. Try checking in with the teachers you work with and the pupils you’re helping to teach and see if you need to change anything about how you work.

Don’t worry too much if you end up doing one of these if you can recognise it and want to change it. As long as you’re always striving to improve you’re doing your job well.

If you’re looking to enrol on a teaching assistant course then see our selection of fully online teaching assistant courses. They offer the flexibility to suit you, and are perfect if you’re already in the job or just looking to start! Need help figuring out if becoming a teaching assistant is for you? See our teaching assistant career advice

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