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22 September 2022
By Dr Jayne True - Improvement Adviser

Top Tips for Teaching Assistants

Estimated Reading Time - 5 mins

As we say goodbye to the summer and reflect on the new academic year, which is now upon us, it will bring new challenges, perhaps new ways of working, working with new pupils, along with new staff. When we reflect upon the past academic year the teaching assistant role has never been more important. The love, commitment, professionalism, knowledge and understanding we give to our pupils requires special people like you, who are resilient, flexible, mindful, non-judgemental and can bring a ray of sunshine into school and our young pupils lives, even when we may be facing challenges within our own personal lives.

The past few years have really tested all of us that work in education. We have had to draw on many attributes, such as patience and understanding, in order to maintain an education for our pupils. Teaching assistants have, hand in hand with teachers, rose to the challenges that were set before them and as a result the majority of our pupils have either closed learning gaps or have very nearly closed learning gaps created by the pandemic. So, maintaining the momentum of educational improvement, taking on board new challenges is part of what we do.

Over the past few years wellbeing has become central to ensuring that the school community thrives, and that learning is successful. Therefore, what I would like to share with you are some thoughts for the forthcoming year to ensure each of you can confidently deal with the new challenges you may be faced with. Keeping calm is a priority. That can be a challenge, when others around you including pupils may be fretting or stressing about a situation.

Here are my following suggestions, some are more personal, and some apply more to school life.

  • Build strong relationships with pupils and staff. This is vital as trust is key to pupils feeling positive about their learning. Get to know the pupils you work with really well as this can help them with their learning and social skills.

  • Stay in the moment and deal with the issue if one arises.

  • Remain professional at all times, as this helps to maintain a level of authority.

  • Do not make an issue bigger than it already is and seek advice if needed.

  • Make sure you are breathing properly when an incident occurs or an issue arises, as shallow breathing can create panic attacks.

  • Take a few deep breaths to calm nerves as this will help to maintain a clarity of mind. Remember every pupil is different and can present a range of challenges. There is not a one size fits all solution to any issue.

  • Do not raise your voice as this is a sign of losing control and will only exacerbate any situation rather than deescalate a situation.

  • If you are unsure of something, never be afraid to ask. No question is a stupid question. No-one knows everything but no doubt someone you work with can advise.

  • Remember you can step back and ask for support when dealing with a stressful situation.

  • Write down some positive affirmations for yourself. This can help you reset unconscious and negative thoughts.

  • Try and master mindfulness which means completely removing judgment from your life. By judging things and people, you define yourself and in doing so, it takes up space in your own mind. Allow yourself you remain in the moment.

  • The few moments you may have to yourself in the morning start your day by noticing your breathing and thoughts. This simple practice can ensure you are aware of your emotions, thoughts, and feelings before you begin your day.

  • Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.

  • Remember to wear a smile as much as you can when dealing with our most precious pupils as we need to give them positiveness and a can-do attitude to help them in their future lives.

I hope some of these thoughts and tips help you to successfully undertake your role as a teaching assistant throughout this academic year and beyond.

Remember being highly professional, knowledgeable and skilled is important as the more we learn and know the more confident we become in our roles. Having worked as an improvement adviser for several years with schools and teachers and teaching assistants, the role of teaching assistants has developed enormously and as such as part of my role, writing, working with and training teaching assistants to be the best they can be, has been highly rewarding and a privilege for me. I look forward to meeting some of you either in school or on training. Don't be hesitant about attending the courses as we are all really friendly.

Have a great year.

Reading That May be of Use

It Takes a Big Heart to Shape Little Minds, author - Joy Page

The Teacher Toolkit Guide to Memory, author - Ross Morrison McGill

Practical Tips for Teaching Assistants, author - Susan Bentham

Supporting Teaching and Learning, author - Louise Burnham.

Quotes to Make You Smile

"It takes a big heart and a large, extra strong coffee to shape young minds."

"Teacher: the only job that makes you reconsider all future names for your own children."

"Pupils may forget what you taught them, but they will not forget how you made them feel."

"When things start to go wrong keep calm and pretend this is on the lesson plan."

Find out more about our Teaching Assistant Training Package - suitable for both teaching assistants at the start of their career and also for those wishing to consolidate learning or gain additional skills, they come highly recommended by schools.

About the Author

Jayne has had a career in education for at least 30 years and has undertaken a wide range of roles including headship. For the last 15 years Jayne has been advising schools in Kent as a school improvement adviser. Jayne is very passionate about school improvement and utilises her broad range of skills and expertise to make a difference. Within Jayne's role of improvement adviser she has been instrumental in developing and managing Every Lesson Counts programme.

Jayne has worked with numerous schools and forges great working relationships, she is able to quickly understand the context and complexity schools may face in order for pupils to achieve well. Jayne also has a number of specialism which include Systems Leadership, Coaching and Mentoring and Assessment for Learning to name just a few.