|Teaching Assistant Orientation (TAO) 2012 (Photo credit: Vandy CFT)|
There's nothing quite like knowing you've made a huge impact on a child's life, and as a teacher or teaching assistant you are helping to shape their future and get them to be the best they can be.
Becoming a teaching assistant (TA) isn't as difficult as you may think ... additional qualifications like a PGCE are not necessarily a prerequisite that you need to attain.
That said, it's not a complete free-for-all either - here's what it takes to become a TA:
A Passion for Teaching
If you're planning to go down this career path you should really want to work with children and show complete dedication to increasing their ability to learn.
Don't try to get into this profession for money or the holidays - the enjoyment and satisfaction of knowing you've made a difference is far more important than that.
If this isn't your main motivator, there's always a chance you are likely to end up hating the role and you could potentially impede the children's education. You can easily project your attitude onto young children, and if you love assisting their learning they are much more likely to engage.
Skills and Education
Unlike teachers, a teaching assistant only really needs GCSEs, with good pass grades in Maths and English. If you are helping with teaching higher education then this should extend to the appropriate qualifications such as A-Levels or BTECs.
It's not necessarily a requisite, but it will help if you're at least on the same level as your students! More importantly though, you will also need to have the ability to communicate well with children and convey instructions in a clear, easy-to-understand manner.
A very important skill you will need to have is the ability to work with the teacher - assisting them with classroom management. Much like a teacher, your job doesn't end when the lesson does.
Your tasks may range from dealing with difficult children and giving extra support, to helping anyone who is struggling, passing out resources and setting up the classroom.
Previous experience with children will definitely help you to gain interviews in the first place, but again, this is not essential. Everyone has the innate ability to pass on knowledge to the next generation, so don't worry if your experience is low.
If you have children, then you have experience - simple! However, if you would like to work in the same school as your child you should talk to the head teacher. They might be able to facilitate this or it could actually be forbidden, depending on the school policy.
Last, but not least, you will also need to undergo checks with the Disclosure and Barring Scheme (formerly known as CRB checks) in order to work closely with children, but the expense for this can often be reclaimed or covered by your employer.
Benefits of being a Teaching Assistant
As a TA you don't have all the stress and worry that teachers get as the grades aren't a reflection on you; however you do get to enjoy the same holidays. Most positions are flexible, offering part-time or full-time work, making it a brilliant role if you have young children or other commitments.
There is also no reason for teaching assistants to do long hours before and after school, which is why many work at the same school their own child goes to. The experience you gain through teaching assistant jobs can give you a huge advantage if you do plan on going on to become a teacher.
If you've been reading this thinking "that's me!" then all you have to do to make your dream a reality is to start applying for teaching assistant jobs. There are plenty of places that can help you with the application process, so as long as you think you've got what it takes, then go for it!
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