The Interview - 'I have no plans to retire yet'

7th August 2009 at 01:00
Joy Senanayake takes `Wake and shake' classes most days and mentors younger staff

Joy Senanayake, 73, is a teaching assistant at St Anne's RC Primary School, Birmingham. She takes `Wake and shake' classes most days and mentors younger staff

  • What do you like most about your job?
    • One of the greatest pleasures is working with children who come in with very little and being able to work with them in a small group, and then to see them come out at the end with a great deal. To see tiny little steps and then see the bud slowly opening . these are the kind of wonderful, developmental things that I can see in children that I've had a lot to do with. I've been here on and off for 20 years and it's become like a family, rather than school. The religious life and everything has all become part of my day, which I really enjoy. Somebody asked me when I was going to retire, and I said: "When I grow old."

      • What's your single biggest achievement?
        • There was one particular girl who wasn't really expected to do very much - she was working at level 1 (lowest attainment level) and now she's leaving Year 6 with a level 5 in her Sats. She used to kick and scream and wouldn't come into school. I used to say to her: "Come on, we're not going to class. Let's go and paint," as she was very good at art. I'd have already set up a painting session outside and she'd come and paint. And when she was ready, she'd come into class. This particular girl had emotional problems as well as learning problems. We sorted those and she has just blossomed since then. It is really important to spend time getting to know what's going on at home. I think it's about having a trusting relationship as well.

          • What do you think is the main role for TAs?
            • The job is to be the best support you can for the teacher you're with and look at their needs. It's important to try to see where you can be a support for them.

              I have a programme called Springboard for children who are lagging behind in maths and we have one for English as well. I take a group of eight children out of the class, and teach them separately myself. This backs up work that's being done in the classroom. I take out groups like this throughout the year and these are the children who you can see really developing with that bit of extra teaching.

              • What's a typical start to your day?
                • I come in early at 7am and get everything ready. People ask me why, but I'm just an early riser. I think it's important to have tables ready for children, so that when they come in they're not looking for a sharp pencil and making a fuss. For the teacher as well, it's important to get everything ready: the board, the date and the computer on the right setting.


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