wikiHow to Be a Good Teaching Assistant

Two Methods:Communicating with the TeacherJoining the Classroom Community

There are many different types of teaching assistant positions, ranging from kindergarten assistants to high school special education assistants to college TAs. Your responsibilities as a teaching assistant will vary depending on where you are working, but there are a few key elements to becoming a valuable assistant in any learning environment.

Method 1
Communicating with the Teacher

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    Listen to the teacher’s needs. Your number one job for this position to assist the teacher. Chances are, your job exists because the teacher already has an idea of what she wants or needs out of an assistant. Before starting the position, or during your first few days, take notes on what is expected from you.
    • Determine early on what your primary responsibilities will be for the position. Will you mainly be helping a few students who need special support? Will you be working behind the scenes, making photocopies and grading papers? Or will you be taking over entire classes for the teacher?
    • If you have questions about anything the teacher describes, ask earlier rather than later.[1]
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    Familiarize yourself with the curriculum. You’ll be able to best assist the students if you know what they are learning as well as when and how they are learning it. Just because you have already taken the class that you’ll be assisting with, doesn’t mean you automatically know all about it from a teacher’s perspective. Read the teacher’s lesson plans, curriculum books, syllabus, etc.[2]
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    Offer to check for homework and grade papers. Part of the responsibilities of a teacher are the day-to-day monitoring of student progress. You can be a huge help to the teacher by sharing in these responsibilities.
    • Make a tracking sheet with each students’ name with columns of boxes so you can check off who brings their homework on time.
    • After grading papers, offer to enter the grades into the computer grading system for the teacher. Or, keep a paper record of the grades on paper to give to them to enter.[3]
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    Ask if you can help communicate with parents. Some public districts may have rules about who can communicate with parents, but if you are authorized to make parent phone calls, it can be a huge help to the teacher.
    • Be sure to keep calls professional. If you are dealing with behavior problems from the student, be sure to include highlights of things the child does well along with your reports of the problem behavior. No parent wants to hear only negative things about their child; giving only negative reports will decrease the amount of support and cooperation you get from the parent.[4]
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    Offer to run errands for the teacher. Something that can be very helpful for a teacher is to run to the copy machine or to the office during class. An adult needs to remain with the students at all times, so if the teacher realizes she didn’t make enough copies for that day’s lesson, after class has already started, it can be quite stressful. You can help in this situation by going out and making the needed amount of copies for her.[5]
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    Ask to help with the schedule/calendar. Teachers often have a calendar posted in the classroom that outlines important student dates and events for that month. You can assist in the sometimes monotonous task of filling in that calendar by offering to complete it for her. You’ll need to have a grasp on school events and regular classroom procedures before being able to do this.[6]
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    Offer to watch students while the teacher steps out. Bathroom emergencies and last minute meetings can happen for teachers. The school district where you work may have rules about who may stay with students for an extended period of time, but most will allow for a teaching assistant to stay with students for 10 minutes or less. Make the teacher aware that you are available as needed for this responsibility.[7]
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    Ask if you can help with special discipline cases. Sometimes students may have a particular issue going on that requires them to spend extra time out of class or in the office. Some students may not be allowed to walk the halls during class without adult supervision. Other times, a student’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) requires that they have occasional breaks from the room.
    • Ask the teacher if you can be of assistance by remaining with these students and walking with them where they need to go while she is teaching.[8]

Method 2
Joining the Classroom Community

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    Get to know the students. A primary responsibility of any teacher is getting to know the students and developing an understanding of their learning strengths and needs. Make an effort to learn all of your students’ names within the first couple of weeks; if you have trouble remembering names, you can make flash cards with defining student features. Another good trick for remembering names is to use popsicle sticks for class discussions; write each student’s name on a stick and pull them randomly during discussions. The student who answers is the one whose name matches your stick.
    • Keep a journal with reflections from each day. This will help you determine strengths and needs of certain students, as well as which lessons went well (or didn’t) and why.[9]
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    Keep the room tidy. No teacher or student likes a messy learning environment. Between classes be sure to push chairs back in, straighten desks, pick up dropped papers or pencils, and organize materials.
    • Ask the lead teacher before doing any major reorganizations in the room. Many teachers are particular about where they like having things placed.[10]
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    Take instructional tips from the teacher. Because your role as an assistant provides you with many opportunities for dialogue with students, you should practice how to provide assistance without actually completing work for the students.
    • Learn how to answer a question with a question; if a student needs help doing a particular task, ask what they remember about what they learned to guide them through getting their answer. Students remember more by figuring out tasks for themselves, not by being spoon-fed every step of the way.[11]
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    Make bulletin boards and displays of student work. Most students love to see their work displayed publicly. This is also a chance for you to get creative. Your school should have a main supply room where you can find colored paper and bulletin board borders.
    • Gather supplies and get to work decorating. Let students know which projects you intend to hang up for display.[12]
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    Assist with supervision during field trips. When your class makes outings, there is a need for as many adults as possible to assist with keeping a head count of students and helping with various tasks like passing out snacks or lunches and keeping everyone quiet during guest lectures. You can also help students get interested in the field trip by talking about your own experiences (if any) in visiting the place where you’re going.[13]
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    Take younger students to lunch/specials classes. Teachers can often use all the extra time during the day that they can get for planning lessons and grading papers. If you can cut down on the teacher’s need to leave class by walking students to where they need to go, she will probably be very appreciative.[14]
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    Proctor make-up tests for older students. Teacher’s lives are often full of giving tests in order to keep up with district and state requirements. Sometimes when students are absent on testing days it makes it complicated for teachers to find the time to give a make-up exam. Offer to take students out of the room, to the library or other quiet area, to give them the make-up test. It can be extremely helpful to both teachers and students alike.[15]
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    Determine which students need extra support. Some teaching assistants are hired specifically to help certain students; in these cases you will find out immediately which students are “yours” to assist. In other cases, such as assistants for whole classes, it will be up to you to figure out which students could benefit most from your extra help.
    • During lessons, watch for students’ responses and levels of participation. The ones who aren’t participating as much or who look confused are ones who could benefit from some extra one-on-one assistance.
    • Ask to look through student records. Again, some records may be confidential according to the district, but you can ask what you’re allowed to look through in order to gain extra insight into the needs of specific students.
    • For students who do need extra support, or to whom you are assigned to in the class, be sure to provide support without hovering over the student. A student with extra special needs may become clingy to an assistant; in these cases be sure show your affection toward the student while also encouraging them to join peer groups and develop friendships.[16]
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    Offer to hold review sessions for struggling students. Students who are falling behind on certain concepts in class can often use some extra time with the material. When the rest of the class is ready to move onto the next unit, offer to spend time reviewing the old material with the students who need extra help. You should be able to find extra practice work in the room by asking the teacher.[17]
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    Maintain professionalism. Remember that you are an authority figure to students, yet you do not make final decisions regarding classroom procedures. Remembering this balance in your role will help you to create a smooth classroom environment.
    • If questions arise by students regarding rules and you are unsure of the answer, it is okay to say, “let’s check with the teacher first.” At the same time, if students do not listen to you because you’re not the “real” teacher, it is okay to remind them that you are an adult in the class and you should be treated with respect just as any adult should be treated.
    • Always be a model example for students; do not participate in side conversations with students while the teacher is talking, and maintain your composure if a student is creating disruption. Don’t lose your temper or become emotional with either students or the teacher.[18]

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Categories: Teaching