Working as a Teaching Assistant

Untitled design (22)Rachel explains what it’s like to work as a Teaching Assistant (TA) in a school.

Tell us about your job
I work as a specialist teaching assistant which means that I work on a 1:1 basis with children in a mainstream school who have statements. I work with children who have statements for their learning or physical needs.

What appealed to you about your career choice?
I enjoy working with children and I find the role rewarding. I think all children should be able to access education and should not be limited or excluded for any reason.

How did you get into it (qualifications needed, experience etc.)?
I began as a 1:1 tutor in a school for children with autism then I moved to a large secondary school to support children in this environment. I had gained 2 years of paid work experience at a respite centre prior to my first appointment. I worked on Saturdays to help run a morning and afternoon session involving play and activities for children to allow parents respite time. We were lucky enough to have a sensory garden, sensory room and a ball pool room. We also organised lots of craft activities and well as songs and games.

What does a typical day involve?
I support my student in every lesson on a 1:1 basis. I break the tasks down to ensure they understand the task and to ensure they have success at completing the task. They may not complete all the work set by the teacher so it is my job to decide what they will complete. I’m looking for good quality work over quantity. I receive lesson plans from teachers a week in advance and I then create suitable tasks for the student.
I attend term-time and after school clubs also. I am a mentor for some children and they come to talk me at 3pm when they finish lessons of they need any support or to talk.

Is there any scope for family-friendly working (flexi-time or work at home days)
I get 13 weeks off a year with the school holidays!

Are there any specific benefits or perks?
The school holidays are definitely a perk as I now have a young son so I don’t need to worry about childcare during this time.

What aspects do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy seeing a child being successful in the classroom because their learning needs are met. Their progress follows on from this and their self confidence soars. This is so rewarding for me.

Are there any parts of your job that you don’t enjoy and how do you deal with these?
There is sometimes negative behaviour from other students in the classroom or around the school but I talk to the students about behaviour as I wound an adult. I don’t think that shouting teaches them how to deal with situations.

Are you able to progress further?
Yes, I can go into teacher training or more senior support roles such as Special Needs Co-ordinator.

What other career options are open to you having done this kind of job?
I would think that many roles with children or young people would be open to me. These could include working abroad or in the child’s home if they were unable to attend school.

What advice would you give someone wanting to get into this line of work/career?
Take the rough with the smooth! Working with children is challenging but so much fun and extremely rewarding.

Rachel Hills: I am a mum, Teaching Assistant, wife and business owner.

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