The role of a Teaching Assistant is crucial; they help facilitate independent learning and give pupils more autonomy.
New teachers should attempt to develop a mutually beneficial relationship by including TAs in planning meetings and identifying their training needs, says Georgina Mountjoy, a recently qualified teacher at Portishead Primary School in North Somerset. "It is scary teaching in front of someone who is normally older and more experienced than you," she says. "But once the first few lessons are out of the way it becomes second nature."
At first, you may feel like you are on trial and have a lot to prove. "You can show your TA that you are well organised by having copies of lesson plans for them ahead of time," says Sue Dixon, head of initial teacher education at Goldsmiths, University of London. "Don't be afraid to receive feedback on your plan - for example, if your support worker feels like you are not addressing the needs of their designated pupil."
The key for any new teacher is to develop a relationship that is built on mutual respect. Georgina quickly developed a good relationship with her TA. "We worked in partnership to support the children and became close friends in the process," she says. "I think it helped that I had previously been a TA because I knew how I had liked to receive instructions and what I had found helpful within my role."
Who knows what
To get off to a good start, you should identify what expertise and knowledge each of you can bring to the relationship, suggests Sue.
"Your TA will, for example, know school systems and routines. They may also know the pupils' names and backgrounds," she says. "This will help you in the initial stages when you are trying to plan your lessons and build a rapport with the class."
TAs should not be used to rid the classroom of a problem child or to do all the menial tasks. "Remember that most TAs are now highly trained and may have specialised knowledge on an area of the curriculum as they may have gone on training," says Sue. "If your support worker is linked to one child, they will be well versed in that child's needs and condition. A genuine interest in what they can tell you should go down well."
Little gestures can also help to build a good working relationship. When giving praise to pupils who have worked hard or who are sitting well, you could ask the TA in front of the class who they think deserves recognition.
What if you don't get on?
If you find that the relationship - despite your best efforts - is not working, seek advice from another teacher who may have worked with the TA. But try not to turn it into a moaning session about your TA. You should also talk to your NQT mentor and your last resort should be the senior management of the school.
Things to think about
- The role of a TA is crucial if pupils are to achieve greater autonomy and higher academic standards.
- It's important to make an attempt to develop a mutually beneficial relationship by including them in planning meetings and identifying their training needs.
- Don't be afraid to receive feedback on your lesson plan.
- Identify what expertise and knowledge each of you can bring to the relationship. Ask your TA for advice in front of the class to show that you are working together.
Read this conversation on the TES Teaching Assistants forum about TAs who tread on the toes of teachers and how to deal with them
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