Dealing with a difficult classroom assistant can be challenging. As in any other work environment in the private or public sector, you are going to come across a mix of personalities. Sometimes, those personalities are going to mesh well, and sometimes, they will not. You have to keep in mind that you are all professionals, and that everyone’s goal is to educate the children.
One thing to keep in mind is that you, the teacher, are the boss of the classroom. The classroom assistant is exactly that. Someone who assists in the classroom. The best thing you can possibly do for yourself is establish that worker-supervisor relationship from day one. If you want order in your classroom, that hierarchy has to be established. The students report to the assistant (or to you, the teacher). The assistant reports to you, and you report to the principal.
Before the students arrive for the day, you will need to meet with your assistant and work out a game plan. Unless the assistant is brand new, chances are good that you are both familiar with the students, and the mix of personalities among them. The two of you will need to work out the issues between students. You both should understand which students work well together, and which ones need to be separated.
You will need to discuss the day’s lesson plans with the assistant. The two of you will need to work together to determine if you have all of the supplies needed to complete the lesson plans and/or projects that are in the plans. If you are planning to do some kind of art project, you should show your assistant how to do it ahead of time. When it’s project time, and the students need help, they are going to ask both you and your assistant. If he/she is in the dark about what is expected, your assistant will not be very happy that you put them in that situation. These issues tend to cause friction between the teacher and the assistant, and you may have caused these issues already. So, do your best to work with the assistant, and make sure that you plan accordingly.
On occasion, you will have an assistant that is constantly belligerent and argumentative with you, sometimes in front of the students. If you have included them in planning, have established the hierarchy, and not put them on the spot in class, then you may have a personnel issue on your hands. Personnel issues like this generally cannot be handled by the teacher. Instead, you will need to set up a private meeting with your principal and go over the issues. Make a list or an outline of the incidents and document them on paper. You should document the incident as well as the date of incident. This will help in establishing a pattern of behavior should you need to take it to a higher authority. Once you have reported this to the principal, the current issues are out of your hands. At that point, you have to allow the principal to do their job and follow up with you.
If, after several meetings with the principal, the problem does not resolve itself, then you may want to ask that the assistant be transferred to another teacher’s classroom, or to another school. If the situation has escalated to this level, then you may need to refer the matter to a personnel assistant at the school board office. These individuals are trained in the execution of school board policy as it relates to human resource matters.
One of the most popular teacher advice and discussion boards can be found at ProTeacher. This site has a lot of different areas of advice and ideas. Chances are good that you will find a discussion topic posted by someone who is going through the same thing you are. Use this resource as a support group.
Language is very important in establishing a rapport with your superiors and your subordinates. If you are constantly demanding, and highlighting your assistant’s failures, you have no chance of earning that person’s respect. If the respect is not earned, there will be more and more friction. Instead, you should work collaboratively with your assistant. Highlight their successes, and help them when they struggle. Although that person is there to assist you, there is no rule that says you can’t assist them when they need a hand.
Regardless of the situation, you should never try to take matters into your own hands. If you are reported to have defamed another school board employee verbally or in writing, it could mean trouble. A lot of times, perception is 80% of the truth, so even if you deny it, you may still be punished. Any physical altercations will be investigated, and if the board cannot determine who was on offense, they may simply fire both of you. Any of these scenarios could cause your job to be on the chopping block, and that’s the last situation you want to put yourself in. You’ve worked too hard and too long to get certified and build experience and rapport. Don’t throw it away by being caught doing something unbecoming of an educator. The guilty party always gets caught eventually. Always take the high road, and be the professional.