Communication - Be clear and specific
Don't assume that your TA knows what you want them to do. Think about how you would feel walking into a lesson and being left to try and decipher who to support , what to support - all the time trying to listen yourself to the teaching segment. It's hard to manage all of this at once
As the teacher you may not have time to plan with your TA , but it's essential to discuss your lessons plans and expectations for your focus children as this will help you build a relationship with your TA and enable them to maximise their support for the pupils Always keep the TAs working in your class fully informed about the intention of the lesson, the way you have planned it and what you hope the outcomes will be. That way they will be able to enhance the lesson by building on the objectives you have set.
Communication is a two way street ! When you are teaching a whole class it is not always possible to identify immediately if a pupil is falling behind or not understanding the work whereas Teaching Assistants working with individual pupils or groups of pupils are ideally placed to recognise such circumstances and address them accordingly. Request your Teaching Assistant's feedback after lessons and work on plans to address learning issues. Teachers often benefit from having a colleague to bounce ideas off and for a teacher/support staff relationship to work at its most effective this should happen on a regular basis.
Class interaction- Empowering your TA
Encourage your TA to be active in lessons . This enables them to raise their profile in the classroom, but also allows you to develop an engaging environment. Involve them in lessons and build a rapport where you can bounce off each other during sessions.
The role of a teachers and the role of a teaching assistant are different but both are important . You need to ensure your TA feels valued and respected . They may very well have more experience in the school or with children than you and as such will provide you with invaluable information . Many Teaching Assistants work closely with pupils with special educational needs You will find that an experienced Teaching Assistant's knowledge of SEN can be extremely helpful and they will be happy to work with you and suggest areas of support which will be most beneficial for individual pupils. Make sure you acknowledge this by always speaking in a professional manner and when there is conflict, clear the air and address the issue.( See also Managing Conflict hand out )
Decision-making - Allow your TA to make independent decisions
Supporting your TA to make independent decisions that are in line with your classroom rules and behavioural strategies is very empowering. Facilitating this will help keep the class running smoothly and promote a supportive , consistent and team approach to teaching.
As well as creating a good working environment, in the event that you are out of classroom for any reason , off sick or on a course- you will know that your classroom systems are being sustained by the support or your TA.
Build on your TA's strengths- value what they can contribute
Ask your TA about their hobbies, experiences and what they would like to do in the classroom. This will give you a great insight into their strengths, skills and interests. Over time you will find that building on your TA's skills and strengths will enable you to bring out the best in them which will benefit you , your TA and your pupils. Also be aware that an increasing number of TAs are graduates themselves and have very valuable transferable skills!
Everyone benefits from feedback and your TA is no different. Give them positive feedback about their work . Make sure the feedback is constructive and help your TA to see the bigger picture so they are clear about what you are trying to achieve in your classroom
Value your support staff and remember they are part of the team! If you want a successful working relationship:
- Keep your Teaching Assistants fully informed about everything that affects their role
- Make time to talk with your Teaching Assistant before and after lessons to ensure there is an opportunity to exchange information and share concerns
- Don't be afraid to ask a Teaching Assistant for advice- but remember you are the class teacher
- Be aware that your individual style of teaching may differ from some of your teaching colleagues and don't make assumptions that they will automatically understand the objectives of your lessons
- Build on the Teaching Assistant's relationships with the pupils. They may have been working with a class, or a specific pupil, for some time and have consequently built up a good understanding of the pupil's abilities and learning needs. Respect this valuable resource.
Case Study - What TAs have to say about teachers:
We have a wonderful working relationship, and the children in our class think they have two teachers! The teacher shares all her ideas with me and is always keen to seek my views on everything we do. We take turns to work with all groups of children, as it is so important for the less able to have the attention of their teacher as well as the Teaching Assistant. We both carry out assessments, and if the ability groups need adjusting we do it together, although I never forget that she is the teacher.
Right from the start, we have been very open and honest - she appreciates my experience and general knowledge...We perform a super double act. She never makes me feel inferior. We are partners who rejoice in seeing children in our care blossom.