1. Thinking there’s a perfect TA
No matter how long we’ve been in the role, how many teacher’s we’ve worked with, how many children we’ve supported or how much training we’ve done, there is no perfect TA. We often hear new TAs talk about needing more confidence, or more experience, but the truth is whether you’ve been a TA for 1 month or 10 years, this is always the case.
Thinking there is some end destination, a point in time where you feel you’ll no longer improve, is dangerous. Being an Amazing TA is about reflecting on our practice, identifying gaps in our knowledge and skills and filling those gaps, and continuously looking for ways we can improve the support we offer.
Once we realise we’ll never be “perfect”, we can be Amazing.
2. Focusing on photocopying and displays
Historically, TAs may have been used more to support classroom administration than anything else – preparing resources, sharpening pencils, creating displays. Whilst all of these are important to the running of a classroom, they have little impact on teaching and learning. To have a real impact, TAs need to be directly supporting children in their learning, working alongside the teacher to monitor progress and development, and provide meaningful feedback.
It can be useful to do an audit of your time – how much time per week do you spend supporting learning, and how much do you spend on administrative tasks? We should always find that the most time should be spent on teaching and learning, or activities directly relevant to this such as completing observations or discussing planning.
3. Thinking teachers know everything
It’s easy to feel like teachers have all the answers, but the reality is that they don’t. Some of their ideas and lessons will be fantastic, and others will fall flat. Sometimes our teachers will think they’ve given us all the information we need to support an activity or a particular child, but they haven’t. Teachers don’t have all the answers, and once we realise this, and offer our support to them as well as the children, we can establish a really purposeful working relationship.
4. Not asking questions and clarifying information
Leading on from this, we need to ensure that we don’t take the information we’re given, by our teacher or anyone else, without clarifying it. Failure to do so is the main cause of miscommunication and misunderstandings and this is when things can go wrong. Whenever you’re given a piece of information or asked to do something make sure you have all the information you need, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
5. Not seeing the bigger picture
It’s important to remember that we are only part of the bigger picture, and in more ways than one. A part of the wider school, part of each child’s educational journey, each activity is part of a bigger topic of learning, each training day or qualification we do a part of our professional development.
Sometimes it’s easy for us to focus on the smaller parts than on the bigger whole. Rather than just thinking about the activity we’re doing at the same, consider how it fits in to the children’s overall learning. Instead of just focusing on the training day you’re doing right now, reflect on what you need to do next. Seeing the bigger picture can really help us to think about what’s important and focus on our priorities.