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Advice for new, young (and overwhelmed) TA!

Discussion in 'Teaching assistants' started by sarahsdean14, Sep 11, 2020.

  1. Hi everyone.

    This is my post seeking advice for (and just generally ranting about) the extremely tough time I've been having with my new TA job. I've been a TA for a couple of months through an agency and just scored my first full-time TA role in a secondary school until the end of October. Previously I taught early years/primary school with Year 3 being my highest year group. So very different. I expected teenagers to be mouthy but at the moment I've been feeling a little like a human punching bag.

    I was thrown in with Year 10s which I quickly realized were the worst group in the school. I can just about put up with the rudeness and disrespect (I've worked retail and tourism after all haha) but there are certain classes where I walk in knowing about 1 or 2 kids on a SEN plan and discover there's actually 6 or 7. I feel spread extremely thin not only trying to help the kids who are actually struggling and want to learn but also managing horrific pupil behaviour. I've been ignored, threatened by pupils, had them storm out of class, heckle me on the corridor. Admittedly in my first week, I struggled to clamp down on it as some teachers wanted me to leave the discipline to them but even having become firmer with the kids I find they'll still laugh at me or just go silent and pretend I'm not even there. It's taking a toll on my mental and physical health. I have PTSD and anxiety plus a chronic pain disorder and other health issues that have been playing up since taking this role. When I am struggling to keep the kids on task it also feels like there is veiled judgment from the teachers. Not all of them but some assume that I take all responsibility for what an SEN kid does the second I step into the room.

    It has been less than two weeks and I am already considering quitting. It is a shame because when lessons are good, they are good. Most of the staff are very friendly and welcoming in general. It is a very lovely working environment outside the classroom. But inside the classroom, I feel very worn out and intimidated.

    I have six more weeks to go but I'm wondering whether I should leave now or give it a few more weeks. I have spoken to the cover manager and the SEN team at the school about particular lessons where there are so many SEN pupils/pupils with behavioural issues that it is almost too much to deal with at once but the advice is is that I should just do my best to keep them on task even if they shout and swear at me. I miss primary school haha.

    PS I should also mention I'm only 22 myself which is why I feel the kids don't respect me. A lot of the male kids I deal with don't respect female teachers in general so add in someone not far from their age and they think they can speak to me like we're on the playground.
  2. sunshineneeded

    sunshineneeded Star commenter

    So sorry you're feeling like this. I'm primary (for 30.plus years), so I have a lot of experience - but not worth this age group. On the plus side - the staff are nice and the working environment pleasant. There's a lot to be said for that. Also, you have an end date in view and it's only six weeks away

    But that doesn't help you with the daily stress in the classroom. It's not easy when you're so young, but remember - you're not their friend. It's great to smile, but always maintain a distance and be clear that you are an adult and 'staff'. Check out the behaviour policy - there must be a sanction for pupils who shout and swear at staff? Talk to your line manager or a member of staff you know will be helpful and find out if you can use the sanction. I would probably give one warning, then set the detention or whatever it is.

    Can you talk to other TAs and ask their advice? Most TAs are very welcoming to new staff and will.be happy to share ideas.

    You might have to make yourself an advent-style calendar and mark off the days! Best of luck, post again and let us know how it's going.
  3. rolls

    rolls Occasional commenter

    It takes a long time to build relationships with secondary pupils when you are working in a support role. Start by making relationships with the teachers, if you have their respect then the pupils will pick up on this. Find a confidante amongst the other TAs who you can share your worries with, you may well find they felt the same when they started.
    Being a secondary TA is much more isolating than early years or primary, where you tend to work much more directly with a specific group of staff and pupils.
    It will get better after time but if it is too much do not be afraid to look for jobs working with younger children. You will not have failed, you will have experimented and learnt from the experience and be an even better TA in your next context.
    sunshineneeded likes this.
  4. Kateray1

    Kateray1 Occasional commenter

    I have years of experience in all age groups. I would say see out the next couple of weeks, your feelings will be transferring to the kids.

    your age should be a help not a hindrance to you. Set firm boundaries but use humour and and try a build relationships with the kids .

    you will always get one set that plays up and having 6-7 Sen in a class is normal in my experience.
    Make sure you use the behaviour policy to the latter and always try to defuse any potential situation.
  5. hubcap

    hubcap Occasional commenter

    Well done for sticking with it so far! Secondary is much harder in my opinion. I couldn't do it. Hold your head high and finish your time there. Try your best to remember that you are there to help. Ignore the children that give you cheek, definitely stay calm and report each and every one to a teacher or ask for advice on how to deal with the situation.. They need to know they are not getting to you but also not getting away with it. Once again well done- there will be many children that appreciate you being there.
    sunshineneeded and Kateray1 like this.

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