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Only Playing, The Role of a Teaching Assistant

Emma takes us through a typical day for her as a teaching assistant. 

On a typical working day I'll leave my home with this little exchange with my husband.

Him: "Goodbye my love, have a good day playing with the children!"
Me: "Goodbye.  Have a good day drinking  and chatting with your friends!"

You see hubby works as a bar manager in a country pub/restaurant and I work as a teaching assistant for Protocol Education.  Of course both our jobs involve so much more than that.  But ask the average person on the street about my role and they will most likely mumble something about long summer holidays and playing all day.  But nothing could be further from the truth.

My role at Protocol Education has changed beyond recognition from where I started out, fresh faced from university determined to be the next best thing in education. I worked for around three years as a teacher, before the 6am get ups, working lunches, getting kicked out of school by the care taker at 7pm and falling asleep under a mountain of marking and paper work became too much to bare. I don't do anything by halves and when I take on a role I give it everything I have! So I tweaked my job a little and started support work.  But even reclaiming the lunch "hour", ok maybe 30 minutes if I'm lucky and getting a life back the role of a teaching assistant is as diverse as it is challenging. 

So, what is it that I actually do? What I do this week will be different from what I did last week, which is unrecognisable from what I did last year. I've worked with every age group from 3 months to 11 years and even 16 year olds, invigilating GCSE'S. I've worked in day nurseries, children's centres, mainstream schools, special schools and pupil referral units.  I've worked in quiet country schools in the middle of nowhere and deep inner city schools.  Each bringing new challenges and new responsibilities. 

As a former teacher my role can sometimes go beyond the average expectation of a TA. This can include cover teaching, planning, assessments, meetings with parents and SENCO's, assisting with assessments, both academic and for SEN and marking books. I don't mind though, I like to feel useful and needed.

Even when I am working in a nursery with very small children I'm never "just playing". For a start the children themselves never "just play". Play is their way if learning and making sense of the complicated world in which they live.  It's my job to scaffold and facilitate that learning. I "just play" as much as my husband "just chats to friends".

In my most recent long term post in a pupil referral unit I worked with children who had been permanently excluded from mainstream schools, most of whom demonstrated extreme behavioural issues and moderate learning difficulties. This is an example of a typical day for me, if there is such a thing!

8:20 Arrive at work. Sign in. Set up the classroom for morning activities.  Photocopy, prepare behavioural records and prepare resources for the day.

8:40 The children begin to arrive from their transport. Calm them down with the morning activities, discuss any issues from the bus.

9:00 Line the children up in order to wash hands before breakfast. Walk them down to the kitchen.

9:05 Wash hands and prepare breakfast of tea and toast for the children.  Use conversation cards to aid appropriate discussion with the children.

9:30 Calendar.  This includes opportunities for numeracy such as sequencing, division, recognising odd and even numbers and doubling and halving.  Support children and extend their learning.  For instance one child could recognise and double four or five digit numbers, whilst another could only cope with a two digit number. Both were the same age.

9:50 How do you feel? An opportunity for PSHE. Using fans to discuss emotions, celebrate positive emotions and resolve issues that may arrive.

10:00 Phonics. Which I have adapted the planning and resourced in preparation. Make notes on planning/assessment.

10:10 Guided Reading.  Hear 1:1 reader, keep record of reading, assess strategies used and ask open questions to assess understanding. Change books when needed.

10:20 Literacy.  Support 1:1 or 1:2 (the group only consists of four children).

10:40 Supervise/ facilitate and scaffold outdoor play.  Record activities of each child on a table for OFSTED evidence.  Resolve any conflict.

11:00 Numeracy. Support 1:1 or 1:2. Sometimes taking children out for intervention work, which I have adapted and resourced myself.

11:30 Choosing time. Whilst children play I used this opportunity to catch up on tasks such as; printing out photos for a weekly photo journal, marking, putting up displays, setting up role play areas, preparing resources, ordering equipment and helping the person in charge assess the children.  Occasionally scaffold children's play, if I have time.

12:00 Line the children up in order to wash hands and walk down to the kitchen for lunch.  Eat with the children, resolving any conflicts and having conversations with them.

12:30 Take a child down to the office for his ADHD medication.  Supervise children in outdoor play.  Resolve conflicts. Record activities.

1:00 Creative Curriculum. This could be anything from science to history. Support and facilitate.

1:40 Snack time. Send children to wash their hands, set up the table and fetch drinks.

2:00 Choice time. Stay with those who have lost minutes due to their behaviour choices, then join in with activities.  This is usually dodgeball in the winter and football in the summer.

2:20 Return to the nurture group. Issue rewards for good behaviour choices (green cards, sweets, raffle tickets and stickers). Read a story to calm the children down.

2:30 Escort the children to their transport. This also includes relaying messages, talking to parents and ensuring the children get into the bus safely.

2:40 Tidy up the class and head to green group for a round robin. Discuss day and any issues with senior management.

3:00-3:20 or whenever the meeting finishes.  Home time! Exhausted but happy!

At any point during the day I could be called on to break up fights, take over teaching, follow a child who has absconded or call a parent.  On a Friday I had to fill in APPs (soon to be a thing of the past).

Like I said though this is just one role and my role in a mainstream school was totally different.  If you really want to know what I do, then I'd say this sums it up. I am; a peacekeeper, disciplinarian, cook, educator, facilitator, spider catcher, shoe lace tie-er, counsellor, entertainer, assessor, exam invigilator, report writer, planner, supervisor, ball fetcher, scaffolder, intervention worker, story reader, tear wiper, sports coach, photocopying and laminating expert, display creator and above all extremely patient.  And in none of those roles am I "just playing".

Would you like to work as a teaching assistant with us? Find the branch closest to you can give them a call -

Tags: EmmaH, Protocol Education, Supply, teaching, teaching assistant

Category: Australian Teachers

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