If you love supporting young people and encouraging young minds, a career in the classroom could be for you! But what’s involved in being a teaching assistant? There’s the obvious 6-week summer holiday (yes, you get that time off too!) and the daily care of the children in your class, but what else is expected of you as a TA? Let’s look at a typical day as a teaching assistant to help you decide if this is the right career move for you…
Before the students arrive, teaching assistants (also known as TAs) help the teacher to prepare the classroom for the day ahead. This could be anything from helping with the seating arrangements to cutting, sticking and creating fun pieces of learning materials for the exciting day ahead!
The children will start arriving at school. First thing in the morning is a busy time and sometimes parents will want to speak to the class teacher first thing. As the TA you’ll be on hand to help out by greeting pupils and getting them settled in the classroom.
Let the learning begin! As TA you’ll be helping the teacher by supporting any pupils that may need a little extra help. Whether this is reading, writing or understanding the assignment better, you’ll be there to keep everything running smoothly and make sure everyone keeps up with the lesson.
Lunch time! Time for the pupils to fill up their tummies and burn off some of that excess energy! As a TA you’ll often help out in the playground while the children are on their lunch break – you’ll be making sure everyone is behaving themselves, keeping quieter students company and ensuring everyone is safe.
Lunch duties will vary from school to school, but you’ll often get 30 minutes to eat your own lunch, then help the teachers and other TAs keep an eye on the pupils and make sure everyone is having fun.
Back to lessons! It’s time to get everyone back in the classroom and settled for the afternoon’s lessons. The afternoon is usually a little more interactive and your duties will vary from day to day: on Monday you might be listening to a child read and Wednesday might see you helping another student with their handwriting skills.
Home time! Again, this will vary from school to school but sometime around 3pm is home time for you and the students. You may be required to stay behind and help the teacher to clean up the classroom and put everything back in place, ready for tomorrow’s lesson.
Outside of the 8:00am – 3:00pm -
Sometimes you may need to work slightly longer hours, for example if the class is going on a field trip and the teacher needs you to be on hand and help look after all the students.
If you cast your mind back to the excitement of a school field trip to watch a play, visit an art gallery or even a trip abroad when you were at school, you’ll remember how much of a buzz is created around these events and why your support is vital to the success of the trip.
On the plus side, you’ll get to visit some really interesting places and learn new things, while hearing the views and opinions of the students you’re supporting. Remember that feeling of discovering a cool piece of artwork or watching a London play for the first time and wanting to talk about it all the way home? As the TA you’ll get to share that enthusiasm with the students and perhaps steer them towards their new-found passion! You don’t get to experience that in your average 9-5 job!
Occasionally you’ll also need to dedicate a few hours helping to prepare reading and learning materials for the week ahead in your own time. If you have your own children at home, why not turn your working tasks into a game – they could help you prepare any visual aids needed for the lesson! You shouldn’t be asked to work outside of your usual working hours, but on the odd occasion you do, help the task go by quicker by popping on your favourite TV show or album while you work – it’s a good excuse to catch up on your missed programmes and make it feel less like work!
After a busy day helping to grow and develop young minds, you’ll be happy to sit back, relax and unwind in the evening, ready to do it all again the next day! Your evenings are a great opportunity to think back over the day and pick out some of your favourite moments; it’s not often you get to make such a difference at work, so sit back and enjoy the feeling of satisfaction knowing you’ve made a positive impact on a young person’s life!
If you’ve been nodding your head reading this thinking you’d like to steer your career in this direction, then you’re not alone! More and more people are entering a career in education every year due to the fantastic rewards, including:
- Job satisfaction
- Long summer holidays
- Flexible working hours
- Development opportunities
- Fitting your career easily around your family time and commitments
While you don’t need a degree to start your career as a TA, having some relevant experience can not only help you in the role, it will help you stand out against other applicants. If you’re serious about starting your career as a TA, why not try volunteering at your local community centre, church group or after school club to gain some experience? It will help you decide whether it’s the career for you and give you the experience you need for your next step.
Practical experience is hugely beneficial but hitting the books will also help you land your role as a TA. Showing you’ve got hands-on and theoretical knowledge in your chosen specialism (such as SEN, autism or ADHD) all supports your application to becoming a teaching assistant.
Want to find out more about a rewarding career in the classroom? Read this:
[What you'll learn in your first month as a TA]