Teacher Assistants have a fun job. They get to help provide students direction without having of the responsibility that teachers have. This job is actually a great stepping stone for an aspiring teacher but it's also just a great position in general.
As a teacher assistant, you're a glorified tutor. You help provide direction, structure, and explanation to students who need a little more help. Since you primarily work at schools or childcare centers, you probably won't work during the summer.
Teacher assistants don't need that much formal education in order to officially start working. In fact, you only need to complete 2 years of college coursework, then you're well on your way to becoming a teacher assistant.
Teacher assistants work under a teacher’s supervision to give students additional attention and instruction.
Teacher assistants typically do the following:
- Reinforce lessons presented by teachers by reviewing material with students one-on-one or in small groups
- Enforce school and class rules to help teach students proper behavior
- Help teachers with recordkeeping, such as tracking attendance and calculating grades
- Help teachers prepare for lessons by getting materials ready or setting up equipment, such as computers
- Supervise students in class, between classes, during lunch and recess, and on field trips
Teacher assistants also are called teacher aides, instructional aides, paraprofessionals, education assistants, and paraeducators.
Teacher assistants work with or under the guidance of a licensed teacher. Generally, teachers introduce new material to students while teacher assistants help reinforce the lessons by working with individual students or small groups of students. For example, after the teacher presents a lesson, a teacher assistant may help a small group of students as they try to master the material.
Teachers may seek feedback from assistants to monitor students’ progress. Some teachers and teacher assistants meet regularly to discuss lesson plans and student development. Teacher assistants sometimes help teachers by grading tests and checking homework.
Some teacher assistants work only with special education students. Some of these students attend regular classes, and teacher assistants help them understand the material and adapt the information to their learning style. Teacher assistants may work with students who have more severe disabilities in separate classrooms. They help these students with basic needs, such as eating or personal hygiene. With young adults, they may help students with disabilities learn skills necessary for them to find a job or live independently after graduation.
Some teacher assistants work in specific locations in the school. For example, some work in computer laboratories, teaching students how to use computers and helping them use software. Others work as recess or lunchroom attendants, supervising students during these times of the day.
Although most teacher assistants work in elementary, middle, and high schools, others work in preschools and childcare centers. Often, one or two assistants work with a lead teacher to provide the individual attention that young children need. They help with educational activities. They also supervise the children at play and help with feeding and other basic care.
Teacher assistants typically need to have completed at least 2 years of college coursework.
Most school districts require applicants to have completed at least 2 years of college coursework or have earned an associate’s degree. Teacher assistants in schools that have a Title 1 program (a federal program for schools with a large proportion of students from low-income households) must have at least a 2-year degree, 2 years of college, or pass a state or local assessment.
Associate’s degree programs for teacher assistants prepare the participants to develop educational materials, observe students, and understand the role of teachers and teaching assistants in the classroom.
Most states require instructional aides who work with special-needs students to pass a skills-based test.
Communication skills. Teacher assistants need to discuss students’ progress with teachers and parents, so they need to be able to communicate well.
Interpersonal skills. Teacher assistants interact with a variety of people, including teachers, students, parents, and administrators. They need to develop good working relationships with the people they work with.
Patience. Working with students of different abilities and backgrounds can be difficult. Teacher assistants must be patient with students who struggle with material.
Resourcefulness. To reinforce lessons, teacher assistants must explain information to students in a way that meets each student’s learning style.