Role of the Teacher
Teachers have the responsibility to be a great leader in the classroom and to many groups of people. This begins with the students, parents, and administration, but also includes the teacher assistant. Besides teaching, organizing the classroom, and communicating well with parents and students, part of the teacher's role is to be a mentor to the teacher assistant in his or her classroom.
Support the Aide
Teacher assistants are often placed in different classrooms from year to year. In particular, teachers must have the ability to help a new teacher assistant acclimate to his or her new surroundings.
This is accomplished by modeling teaching strategies as well as good organization and communication skills:
- Show the teacher assistant how to develop his or her own teaching style through modeling. You may ask the teacher assistant to shadow you to allow him or her to become acclimated with your style, but eventually with your guidance the assistant will develop his or her own style.
- The teacher assistant needs to know your expectations. Write a section in your lesson plans for the Teacher Assistant of where, when and what they will do. Include small groups or one on one instruction for each subject. For example, if you have a group a struggling readers that could benefit from extra instruction during circle time, then write the time of day that he or she will be working with that group in your lesson plans.
- Give the Teacher Assistant a photocopy of your lesson plans each week. This way, if you get busy and forget which group he/she is working with and when, then it is already written in the lesson plan.
- Be specific. Provide him or her with the materials to complete the task. Otherwise he or she may sit back out of fear of overstepping boundaries.
- If you only have a Teacher Assistant with you for a few class periods, then learn about the other classrooms he or she is in and when. If he or she is in another classroom at the same grade level as yours, then collaborate with the other classroom teacher for the Teacher Aide to take some students from each class to work with. This will double both yours and the other teacher's time with the Teacher Assistant.
- Keep personal conversations to a minimum. Instead, keep him or her abreast of classroom activities and aware of student progress. If possible, include him or her in Open House activities to meet the student's families or caregivers.
For more ideas on planning and communicating with parents, I have also written an article about effective communication with parents, which I feel is equally as important for the role of the teacher in the classroom.
Know the Role of the Teacher Assistant
Never underestimate the abilities of a Teacher Assistant. I had the privilege of working in a daycare for my first teaching experience in the Pre-Kindergarten classroom. I had an awesome Teacher Assistant who did not have any prior teaching experience. She was very eager to learn and I quickly became her mentor. After one year of modeling my technique and observing me, she was promoted to the Lead Teacher of the two-year old class, a position in which she still holds today. I was thrilled for her about the promotion, but sincerely missed all that she contributed to the classroom.
In the past the role of the Teacher Assistant was primarily to perform non-teaching tasks such as making photocopies, escorting students to specials, correcting homework, grading tests or prepping materials for lesson plans and bulletin boards, but this role is changing. The Teacher Aide role now includes teaching small groups in Reading, Writing and Math, one on one instruction to students with special needs, and moderating exams. Some school districts are now requiring an Associate Degree for Teacher Assistants or training and passing a test for Certification. Some of the course content that the Teacher’s Aide may receive while earning an Associate Degree is, Growth and Development, Child Guidance, Observation and Evaluation, Family and Community, Childhood Literacy, Math and English. This article is not to suggest that the Teacher Aide no longer support the teacher in his/her non-teaching tasks, but that the Teacher Aide assists more in the teaching of the students than ever before.
Establish a Rapport
Start the school year off by getting to know the Teacher Assistant assigned to the classroom. Find out his or her classroom experience, strengths, likes, dislikes and talents. So many times I used to hear “break room conversations” that the Teacher Aides do not help in the classroom. It our responsibility as the teacher to make sure that they feel welcome and a part of the classroom and that they know what is expected of them.
Learning about the Teacher Aide’s experience and strengths will help you to know what assignments to give him or her. Make sure that the Teacher Aide knows that you are available to answer any questions. This may mean that you, as the teacher, must learn to trust the judgment and ability of the Teacher Aide. Don’t miscount life experience. The Teacher Aide may be a grandmother, father… and this life experience may contribute greatly to the students’ social behavior.
Give the Teacher Aide consistent respect and an opportunity to establish a routine and you will find that he or she will not only be a part of the classroom, but will help with more responsibilities than you could ask for. Remember that a Teacher Aide position is a career choice. Just as an Office Assistant has a different role than the Office Manager, you and the Teacher Aide have different roles and both are equally important.