Teacher Tips Dealing with a Difficult Classroom Assistant

Having a classroom assistant can be a tremendous boon to a busy teacher, but when he or she has to contend with a difficult classroom assistant, as well as his or her students, it is not always easy. A difficult classroom assistant can take up more valuable time than any teacher has to spare.

What is the normal role of a teaching assistant?

“The teaching assistant takes on tasks that allow the teacher to concentrate on teaching (eg, by preparing the classroom for lessons and clearing up afterwards). To support pupils with particular individual needs, some teaching assistants work one-to-one, while others work in small groups.”

How to deal with a difficult classroom assistant is usually an individual thing, between the teacher and the classroom assistant, but not always. Others may become involved in difficult situations. If they begin taking sides, the teacher’s job can become increasingly difficult. Remember that classroom assistants are not always professionally trained teaching assistants. 

Consider the following guidelines when dealing with a difficult classroom assistant:


Having positive, constructive and proactive goals in teaching is always important. Many teaching goals appear to be idealistic rather than realistic, which can prove to be one reason for a classroom assistant to be difficult to work with. Even a trained teaching assistant may try to work with his or her understanding of realistic goals, rather than striving for the teacher’s higher ideals, which he or she may not be able to comprehend. It is important to know if the teacher and teaching or classroom assistant have the same goals.     


Conveying or effectively communicating positive, constructive and proactive goals to the teaching or classroom assistant appropriately, prior to his or her assuming any tasks, is vital for his or her understanding of the required assistant or helper role. The teacher’s expectations must be plain in order for the teaching assistant or classroom assistant to be able to function effectively with students. Finding better ways to communicate with a designated helper is usually a good idea.


Classroom assistants with have varying abilities. The ability of the teaching assistant is an important determining factor in goal achievement. When goals prove to be above or beyond the ability of the teaching assistant or classroom helper, he or she may become difficult to work with, immediately. At times, it is a good idea to work carefully with a teaching assistant or classroom helper for a while in order to determine what he or she is actually capable of doing. Further guidance or instructions may be indicated as nothing should be taken for granted.    

“Teaching assistants must be trained to a level matching their responsibilities.”


The onus is always on the teacher as a professional, to identify and attempt to resolve any areas of concern that cause the teaching assistant or classroom helper to be difficult. In other words, the teacher needs to deal with the teaching assistant’s or classroom helper’s frustrations, anxieties or fears in a realistic way. At times, the problems or concerns are part of his or her role as a teaching assistant or classroom helper, but not always; they may to be something of a more personal nature that needs resolution.

Following these guidelines may make working with a difficult teaching assistant or classroom helper a whole lot easier. Remember to say please and thank you to whoever is assisting you in your classroom. A smile and a reward now and then, can work wonders too.