ONE day, six months after starting my present job as a teaching assistant, I was handed my payslip in front of the children. A sharp-eyed boy piped up in astonishment: "Miss, do you get paid then?" His words, plus the explanation that he thought I was "just a helper", spoke volumes about my perceived status within the school. I am pleased to say that things are very different now.
I had been taken on, with four others, in the infancy of the literacy hour to assist in two year groups. Along came the numeracy hour and we were assigned our own classes. These changes brought benefits in terms of status and a proper pay structure. We even had our names put on the classroom doors underneath those of the teachers.
Our responsibilities, too, have evolved, as we took on more of a special-needs role, helping children with learning, emotional or behavioural difficulties. Is it right that we should be supporting such vulnerable children? Isn't it the teacher's job to ensure they get the education they need? Yes, of course it is. But we are here to help and, under the specialist teacher's guidance, we can make a real difference.
Now the Government wants some of us to become "Super TAs". Yet in reality, only those who have the inclination, skill, training and support of governors and teaching colleagues will take on this new role.
Will this new breed threaten teachers' status? I don't see why. It will enable every teacher to take centre stage, as senior partner in the classroom relationship. As TAs, we will sort out the background tasks, leaving teachers free to teach.
Will we be queuing up to take over teachers' jobs? On our salary? You must be joking! If we wanted to teach we would expect to be paid a teacher's salary. And that means becoming teachers.
Lisa Taner is a teaching assistant at Worcester's primary school in Enfield, north London