Dealing with an Ineffective Teaching Assistant

Room ready? Check. Lesson plans written? Check. Teaching assistant prepared? No? Teaching school is hard enough. You have to differentiate lessons, prepare students to pass standardized tests, handle parents and staff. The last thing a teacher needs in an ineffective teaching assistant, but can you do? Don’t let the problem linger. Take positive, effective action today and improve your working conditions today.

A teaching assistant should work as a second pair of hands and eyes in the classroom. They take care of minor responsibilities such as making copies, cutting out items for lessons, grading and recording papers and minor supervision while the teacher is gone from the room. The teaching assistant is also able to work one-on-one with a child needing special help, monitor a small group and make it possible for a teacher to spend more time with kids who need extra attention. As a potential asset to the teacher, the ineffective teaching assistant tends to make the work of the teacher harder and the positive potential must be brought out!

End all possibility of confusion for the assistant. Create a job description. Write down, in the simplest terms possible, everything you expect your assistant to do. List the manner in which you want the jobs to be completed. For example, if a child is being helped, let the assistant know how much is too much and how little is too little. Because your schedule is an important element of your program, include a daily schedule in the job description that lets the assistant understand transition times.

A job description for a classroom should also include a section on expected behaviors, from the dress code to interaction with the children or their parents. Many teaching assistants may not have graduated high school and many have no post high school experience. Do not expect them to know the proper behavior in the classroom. Include how you wish the students to be addressed, what to do with an uncooperative child and the need to keep the children’s privacy outside the classroom. In modern society, include Internet behavior such as, do you allow your students to be your friend on Facebook? The teaching assistant should have the same expectations.

Complaining in the teacher’s lounge will not change a behavior and it is quite possible that your teaching assistant is feeling a definite level of frustration as well. Choose a time when neither of you will be rushed; sit down and talk to your teaching assistant. State several things you like about the assistant’s work. Then, without criticizing the work being done, tell the assistant what you need to see her doing in the classroom. Share your job description document and provide a copy for her. Ask her if she has any questions or concerns that need to be addressed. Follow through and, when appropriate, address her concerns too.

When you have done all you can and your teaching assistant is still ineffective, take the next step. Talk to your principal about your problem. It could be possible that your assistant would work better with an other teacher or at another job. Don’t allow the help you should have remain the problem you do have. Allow your classroom to have the environment it needs by quickly addressing the problem of the ineffective teaching assistant.