The following blog post is from our anonymous blogger in a primary school.
TA, LSA, HLTA, Support Assistants – I have had some worth their weight in gold and I have worked with others who just seem like an extra member of the class to deal with. There is nothing better than a TA who uses their initiative, works well with the kids and even organises me at times.
The best TA I have ever had is hard to decide as I am lucky to say I’m spoilt for choice. I had one who brought me a Starbucks most mornings and completely blitzed my cupboard, removing dead mice and all. I have had others who created their own folders of work to support individual children, those who remove children who are being disruptive to do ‘special jobs’, those who use every available moment in the day to make sure my photocopying and laminating is done, those who mark spelling and tables tests and note in my mark book and even one who made handbags in her spare time – amazing!
At my current school, there are lots of TAs designated to certain children and these are their prime concern. A lot of the time they can also work with the children around them and, in cases where the disability is not linked to being lower ability, these children can work independently and their support can be used around the classroom. It is important, however, that parents feel their child’s needs are being met and that we are providing what we are required to give them which is sometimes hard to juggle.
I have found that if I am working with less confident TAs, and when I have lots of children on IEPs or provision maps, I need to timetable my classroom support. It is really easy to just stick a TA with your bottom group and let them get on with it, and I am guilty of this at times, but I have found that if I use them across the ability groups it gives me a chance to work with all the children at some point during the week. It can take ages to look through all the needs and targets the children have and work out how on earth to fit it in. Five minutes during registration, assembly time, five minutes after lunch, every available minute had to be used last year to ensure children were getting the support they needed. My poor TAs were shattered by the end of the day after reading, handwriting, physio, rainbow road etc. etc. A folder including all plans, timetables and provision maps is always available for the TAs in my class as I have a few during the day and they can all have access to this.
It is always best to stay on the right side of your teaching assistants. I think I usually manage to achieve this and if I ever do feel like I have upset anyone, a bit of grovelling and apologising usually gets people back on side! It’s the way you ask them to do things, I think. Until recently, most of my TAs have been older than me and mums of older children, which has meant they have enjoyed doing a bit of extra mothering. I’m not complaining.
Listening to the support staff grumbles in the staffroom often helps you avoid saying or doing the wrong thing. I have learnt that they do not like having a coffee cup thrust into their hands and pointed towards the staffroom, they do not like being given admin jobs at times when they should be working with children they are paid to support, they do not like sitting and doing nothing in the classroom, they do not like being spoken to like they are children and they do not like being treated like your own personal assistant. If you can remember these things and get them a Birthday, Christmas and end of year present to show your appreciation you can maintain a happy working relationship. It sounds simple, but I have spoken to many a disgruntled TA who ‘Never wants to work with that woman again’! A thank you at the end of the day goes a long way.