Ahead of TA Celebration Day tomorrow, one teaching assistant, who has chosen to remain anonymous, has come up with five ways to get the best out of your TA:
1. Give them autonomy: There’s nothing worse than having none. Dealing with challenging behaviour and problem solving requires autonomy; everyone has their own style. But if you work with a teacher who gives you no freedom, it’s often impossible to do things their way and be successful. Teachers need to set boundaries, but allowing someone to use initiative within set objectives can still provide a consistent approach.
2. Work to people's strengths: Sometimes the TA is more experienced or knowledgeable than the teacher in a specific area. This should be recognised, as it promotes a team approach. The TA is more likely to respect the teacher for admitting that they are not as good as the TA at some things, and both pupils and teacher benefit. In addition, the TA can feel more empowered and motivated.
3. Benefit from people’s hobbies or subject specialisms: It could be that the TA is a dance teacher at the weekend or an ICT graduate, so use this expertise! So often TAs’ skills are wasted. My school would rather employ someone to come in and teach dance rather than ask me because I'm not a teacher. However, at weekends many people pay to have dance lessons with me. Schools shouldn't take advantage of TAs by treating them as cheap labour, but it's possible to find a happy medium.
4. Develop career prospects: A static structure does nothing for people's confidence and self esteem. This leads to negativity and lack of motivation and good will.
5. Schools with a large staff base should have a working party with representatives from all areas for meetings: This allows for staff to have their say in how the school is run and ensures that everyone can work towards shared goals. Our school no longer has any staff meetings that include TAs, so we have no idea of the direction the school is going in.