People. We’re all completely unique and different. That’s the beauty of humankind. However, that in itself comes with a few issues.
Of course we can’t all get along brilliantly with every single person we meet or work with, but, if you’re a teacher then sometimes getting your TA to work with you rather than against you can be its own uphill struggle. A TA is there to support you whilst learning for themselves, you shouldn’t feel as though you’re at loggerheads. You should compliment each other’s strengths and build on the other’s weaknesses. sometimes however, it doesn’t work out that way…
But don’t despair just yet! Try a few of these handy tips and hopefully you’ll be able to find that balance and stop stressing.
1. Be friendly but firm
One of the best tips you can try is to be friendly and welcoming but also firm. Finding that balance is key, as you don’t want your TA to think that you don’t have any kind of authority but you don’t want to intimidate them either.
You’re work colleagues, its great if you get on personally with them, if you share interests and can have a chat on breaks, but primarily, you’re both there for the same reason; to engage your class and allow them to learn in the best environment possible. To do this, of course be friendly but you need to set boundaries and let your TA know what you are conformable with in the classroom and how you like to work.
Communication is key. Expecting your TA to already know every single last thing will only cause them to feel out of their depth and you to feel frustrated. Put yourself in their shoes and remember how daunting it was for you on your first weeks of teaching at a new place. Cut them some slack and communicate clearly.
Hinting isn’t a good option, you need to say exactly what you would like them to assist you with and if necessary how you would like it done.
Give them a mini tour of the classroom so they know where everything they will need is and encourage questions. Make it clear from day one that you would rather they asked you questions rather than suffer in silence and feel like they couldn’t approach you. This is where being friendly can really work in the favour of both of you. Be approachable and make your TA feel at home and like they ask you anything.
3. Include your TA in lessons
Making sure you include your TA in the class will really make them feel valued and make them gradually more conformable and confident. Don’t just banish them to the back of the class or hand them all the difficult and boring jobs. Include them, introduce them to the class and incorporate them in daily teaching. Get them to contribute ideas too, this will encourage them to work with you. Making someone feel valued and needed will make it less likely that they will make it difficult to work together. So its a win win situation all round.
4. Give feedback
Feedback is so important, especially for TAs, but also for you too. Suggest you give them weekly feedback and ask them to bring their own thoughts about what they think went well that week and what didn’t go as they planned. Maybe get them to write down five points they want to improve on throughout the year and you both can keep tabs on their progress each week. Ask for their own ideas about how they could improve and make sure that they know how to build on their teaching techniques to get the best results.
Have a sit down with them and schedule some time at the end of the day on a Friday or near the end of the week just to go through everything. Another tip is to really think about the points you will raise with them, make sure your feedback for them is constructive and will actually help them improve.
5. Let them make their own decisions
Another good tip is to let your TA make their own decisions once they are confident enough. Sometimes throwing someone in at the deep end allows them to flourish and discover that they CAN do it, even if they think they can’t.
Discuss this concept with them early on and ask them to lead a class every now and then. They can gain experience writing lesson plans and presenting in front of the class as well as using their own ideas to make sure they and the class get the most out of the learning.
6. Deal with any problems as soon as they arise
This tip is probably the most vital one you can put into action. It might be tempting to bury your head in the sand if your TA is being a little difficult rather than bringing up your issues directly but this will do no one any favours in the long run.
Sitting your TA down and discussing any problems when they very first arise is the best bet for you if you want to avoid a bigger issue further down the line. anyway, most conflicts between teachers and TAs have a lot to do with simple misunderstandings so clearing up anything that may lead to a bigger issue is beneficial to both of you.
Hopefully these tips will get you well on your way to that dream TA/Teacher relationship and get you feeling as though both of you are well supported and on the same side with the same goals and objectives. Good luck and happy teaching!