Teachers are great people. You make many of my closest friends. But if we’re really honest, teachers are not always the easiest people … that’s understandable. The majority of teachers admit that they feel stressed most of the time. And tired. And revised … (Evidence can be found in the Teacher Wellbeing Index 2019!), And none of us is at our best when we are tired and stressed. It manifests itself differently for different people. Forgetfulness, distraction, headache, bitterness … all of this is common when stress becomes an integral part of our working life.
There are no quick fixes or easy answers, but sometimes STOP, look around, breathe, chat, laugh, and remember that you are human to relieve the pressure a little. Today I challenge every teacher who is lucky enough to work in the same building as a teaching assistant (TA) to stop and chat with him. Ask them about themselves, about their lives. Thank you for the thousand things they do to make your life easier every day and for the invaluable work they do to change the lives of young people. All this for an average of around 13,000 a year in the UK,
Schools tend to work very hierarchically – most teachers have been reminded at some point in their careers of their place in the pecking order. So there is a risk that the wisdom, experience and commitment of TAs in schools are sometimes overlooked or that TAs feel ignored and undervalued.
The fact is that most TAs would be excellent teachers – many do just that. Most TAs that I know work in schools but are a calling, but they don’t work voluntarily in these roles, but because they have numerous other commitments that start and end hours before school starts (sometimes with a second or even third paid job) hours afterwards. Not surprisingly, most TAs are women. Many TAs have children with special needs, terminally ill relatives, their own mental or physical health problems, which means that a teacher’s work time – not to mention the cost of time and money for the qualification – is simply not an option.
“Be nice because everyone you meet has a tough fight.”
Indeed, it is true that the vast majority of TAs I have been allowed to work with have a fight that is far more intense than my own struggles with piles of tags and data entry. And for the most part, TAs always have time for a conversation. You always have time to talk about the students we share and give insight into the best approaches if we just take the time to ask. One of the absolute highlights of my career was working with TAs on a learning scheme that we had completely redesigned from scratch (the GCSE curriculum was not right for our students) and that was mainly about Donald Trump … Many of these young people did Continue Get a current grade at GCSE English and I fully attribute this to my TAs.
What has always impressed me is how much TAs have to be given. Teachers are under so much pressure to demonstrate results that many schools delegate many other elements of working with young people to TAs, from laces to tantrums to meetings with some of the most vulnerable parents. TAs take on these tasks willingly, but often without recognition. With these numerous interactions every day, a TA’s skills are considerable and something that can be easily overlooked.
It should also be borne in mind that TAs who often live in the local community have insights into the lives of children, the culture and the challenges from which teachers can really learn.
“But you don’t really have to plan, do you?” I made the mistake of saying recently to a group of TAs. “Unless you count the three-hour daily 1: 1 interventions that I have to give to children with profound special needs,” said one. (But you get the materials, yes? Um, no …) Not if you don’t count the arithmetic, reading and writing skills that have to be adapted to a small group of children with very different needs. “Not unless you count the preparations that need to be made before meeting the notoriously difficult parent who will only speak to me …” “Not if you don’t think we don’t have time without contact . ” In order to be with the child, I work all day every day – breaks and lunch breaks – and have to find someone to supervise it when I have a week.
Did you complain? Not a bit of it. Their pride and joy in their work showed, even though they wanted to emphasize that they don’t do it for the money! Teacher and headmaster, I know you are busy. I know that you barely have time for the toilet yourself, but think about the basic human need for appreciation. Remember that support goes in all directions and TA’s excellent, empathetic, and trustworthy listeners can have a great life experience. Stop for a chat if you can. Or make sure you say thank you. And when they say good morning, always remember to say it back!
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