Teaching or Educational Assistants

Our Teaching Assistants had different workshops last week on the Professional Development Day. They came back excited about what they had learned. In the few minutes they have to greet each other, I could hear them talking about the Sexuality workshop, the Behavior Management Training Session, and the networking they did with other TAs. There has been a lot in the news lately that has been negative about TAs. It has been my experience over the past 30 years of teaching, that any difficulties where an TA had been blamed, resulted from lack of communication, frustration that the child's behavior was communicating something we didn't understand, or lack of support to meet the child's needs. What I mean by lack of support, is that we didn't know what was causing the behavior or the expectations between what the child needed and what was possible was at odds. A teacher and a parent depend  on the knowledge and insight our Teaching Assistants. They are with the child, not to entertain, but to facilitate learning and social times. If there are problems, it is so important to sit down with the teacher and discuss the issues. Good listening is important on all sides. A parent is a child's best advocate, and the teacher and TA are part of the team.

So, why do people think they assume that TAs are 'wanna be' teachers who don't have the initiative or desire to become teachers? It takes a special person to work with students who need so much support, and whose progress isn't measured on a steeply vertical line.

 In our region, TAs do not have access to the IEP (Individual Education Plan), so the teacher better be very clear in her or his communication as to what the student's goals are, and how to achieve them, and what needs to be changed if the goals are not being met. Often, a lot of individual programming requires lots of visuals, (laminated and velcroed) and they need to be organized so that they are immediately available. It takes a long time, and I know I haven't always had them ready in a timely manner. Yet, our TAs at the school pitch in and find something that works in the meantime.

So,  I hope I have done my best to show clear communication, appreciation for the insights and observations that our TAs have, and honest-to-goodness thankfulness for the extra support that our TAs give our students. I am so overjoyed when parents send a note to the TA to express their appreciation for the care of their children. Because, they deserve every token of appreciation, and every penny they earn!

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