Teaching assistants, sometimes referred to as teachers' aid or instructional aides, function by providing support to teachers in a classroom setting. Specific job duties vary widely depending on the details of the position, but most involve student supervision and some clerical tasks. In order to perform duties effectively, teaching assistants must possess certain skills, including organization, communication, supervision and clerical skills.
Teaching assistants must be highly organized to ensure that the classroom is run effectively, allowing the teacher to focus on lesson plans and other important tasks. Keeping a supply closet organized, for example, is a common requirement of teaching assistants, which ensures that materials are ready when needed. Teaching assistants are also often responsible for distributing textbooks to students and making sure they are returned at the end of the year. A teaching assistant should be comfortable keeping files, equipment, tests, worksheets, attendance records and other materials organized and up to date without needing extensive input from the teacher.
Teaching assistants must effectively communicate with students, their parents and the teacher in person, over the phone and by email. During the work day, a teaching assistant needs to speak to the teacher periodically to understand what is expected for upcoming lessons and to convey any problems or concerns that may have arisen. It is also important for teaching assistants to communicate with students to help them with their lessons and explain issues they have with the material. Parents often check in to find out how their child is doing. If the teacher is not available, the teacher's assistant should be comfortable fielding parents' questions and take note of any of their concerns.
One of the main functions of a teaching assistant is helping to supervise students throughout the day. A teaching assistant might supervise students during a lesson by providing individual attention to those who need it so the teacher can continue with the lesson plan. Student supervision is also required during lunchtime, recess and field trips to maintain order and ensure student safety. A teaching assistant who effectively supervises students allows the class to progress effectively without requiring the teacher to stop what she is doing when a student needs additional help. Teaching assistants must also discipline students when they are not behaving appropriately.
Teaching assistants often perform a variety of different clerical duties, such as recording grades, keeping attendance records, making copies of lesson plans or filing student information. A teaching assistant might also help the teacher update a classroom website or fill out administrative paperwork. For optimum effectiveness, a teaching assistant should be skilled in using general office equipment, including a computer and copy machine. The ability to type quickly and create and maintain files is also helpful.
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