Monday, 29 June 2015

Working with Other Adults in Your Classroom

Phil Beadle explains the roles of other adults that will work with you in your classroom from time to time
There will be a variety of different people who will sit in your classroom from time to time. Broadly, they will be there to provide you with support with kids who have specific difficulties accessing education, either because they have English as a second language, special educational needs or they are presenting behavioural issues. The people in your class will either be specialist teachers or teaching assistants, and their roles will roughly break down into the following:
EAL support teacher – to provide specialist support to children at an early stage of learning the English language.
Behaviour support teacher – to provide specialist support to children who exhibit behavioural issues.
Learning support teacher – to help kids who have specific difficulties in learning to access the curriculum.
Learning support/teaching assistant – either attached specifically to a child or to the class in general. There are also higher level teaching assistants, who are like the bosses of the normal teaching assistants (kind of).

Your teaching assistant is your best friend

All these people are potentially invaluable to you in your first year, and you must make it a matter of policy to make friends with the teaching assistants especially.
The first and most obvious reason that you should do this is that, despite their lack of professional status and in spite of the degrading, sweat shop salaries they command, every one of them is more experienced in a classroom than you are.
The older teaching assistants, those who have been at the school for years, will have seen it all – from breakfast all the way through to Christmas. They will be able to smell how good/bad/nervous you are, and if you are totally emotionally honest with them, they will help you.
But you must treat them with respect, perhaps even, at an early stage of your career, with deference; you are being paid graduate wages to do roughly the same hours they are working for a pittance. Ergo, they are more passionate about the kids’ education than you are. Most of them have taken the job because they have had children at the school, they will know most of the kids at the school and, as such, they will have mature, to the point of fruity, opinions as to how to deal with them.
Whilst they may indulge in the odd, quiet snicker to themselves whilst you are drowning (though I have always found teaching assistants to be the model of professional discretion), if you do find yourself in this position, then the teaching assistant is your lifebelt. Speak honestly with them about the difficulties you are having, ask politely for help and they will work with you, in the trenches, covering your back as you go over the top. Treat them as if you are in any way better than them (you are not – they have probably seen and dealt with things you couldn’t imagine) and your best friend and chief support will down tools.
One problem is that you and your teaching assistant never get any time together whatsoever to plan what you are going to do. Theoretically, you are supposed to do this, but there is no time allocated for you to do so. The best you will be able to manage is a quick two minutes in the staffroom before the staff briefing. If you do get such an opportunity, however small it is, take it. Your teaching assistant is the only other professional in the room on a regular basis. They will have the same degree of emotional engagement with your classes as you and if you want to discuss strategies, share how much you adore a pupil or just want to scream at how unjust it all is, your teaching assistant will listen.


No comments:

Post a Comment