Teaching Assistants Roles & Responsibilities

Teaching assistants are an integral part of an elementary school's educational program. Employed mainly in kindergarten through third grade, assistants provide essential support to the pupils and the lead teacher. They have several roles and responsibilities and work under the direct supervision of the classroom teacher. Their main duty as a paraprofessional is to help ensure the safety and well-being of the children while helping them master skills and improve academic performance.

Educational Support

Teaching assistants provide supplemental instructional support. They monitor and observe students while the teacher introduces the lesson. When children practice skills at their desks, the assistant will help those who may be struggling and alert the teacher to any special problems a child may have. In many schools, assistants are trained in tutoring and intervention methods so they can provide additional help to pupils in individual sessions. The teacher is not able to give every pupil individual attention. His assistant can make the difference in the life of a child who has learning disabilities.

Behavioural Support

Classroom management is a major responsibility for teachers and their assistants. The teacher develops a discipline plan in accordance with school policies, but she cannot effectively enforce it and deliver quality instruction as well. Assistants provide crucial support in this area. They implement the behaviour plan and should apply its rewards and consequences fairly and consistently.

Administrative Support

Teachers rely on their assistants for administrative support. Because of this, they may be asked to perform a number of secretarial duties. These include filing papers, updating phone numbers and addresses of the children and organising school supplies. By handling these time-consuming tasks, assistants allow teachers more time to help struggling pupils and design more efficient lesson plans for the entire class.

Safety Support

Child safety is another teaching assistant duty. An assistant often functions as the sole protector of the pupils when escorting them to the library or computer lab or when overseeing them in the classroom in the absence of the teacher. Assistants must be vigilant in monitoring the kids and able to react quickly in crisis situations. Assistants act in the same capacity when accompanying their classes on field trips.

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About the Author

Karen Hollowell has been teaching since 1994. She has taught English/literature and social studies in grades 7-12 and taught kindergarten for nine years. She currently teaches fourth grade reading/language and social studies. Hollowell earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Mississippi and her Master of Arts in elementary education from Alcorn State University.

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