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Help! Does being a Teaching Assistant get easier?

Discussion in 'Teaching assistants' started by umbrellasky, Sep 19, 2013.

  1. Hi All I am feeling the need to vent somewhere so have chosen here! If anyone has any advice that would be great.

    I have just come to the end of my first week as a teaching assistant and I am finding it very difficult and I'm not enjoying it. It’s a fixed term job for a year. I applied for it because I wanted to apply for a PGCE for next September and thought that being TA would be great experience/preparation for the PGCE and also would help to decide if it’s what I really want to do.

    This is my first job as a teaching assistant and I realise that I am very lucky to have it! I volunteered for a couple of mornings a week for a month before applying and what I enjoyed about my volunteering was being able to connect with the children and see them progress. This is the same for my paid role, however...

    I feel constantly stressed throughout the day and I feel exhausted and tearful. Basically, I get half way through the day and I've had enough. The admin tasks are fine, supporting individuals and groups is fine, what I find difficult it how noisy it can be, and the constant nagging I have to do to remind the children to behave appropriately. I think that’s the most frustrating, having to constantly repeat myself. I'm finding it very overwhelming. I work 30 hours a week, I take the kids out for a 20 min break in the morning and do a 30min lunchtime duty.

    I thought I'd love this job because I seem to be able to connect with children and motivate them, but I'm really struggling. One thing I know for sure is I definitely no longer want to be a teacher...they work even longer hours and do so much more and if I can't cope with being a TA then I know I won't cope with being a Teacher.

    Any advice? Will it get easier? I've thought about leaving, but I feel like I'd be letting the school down, the teacher and most importantly the children. The contract is for a year so I'm thinking that I should just stick it out until the end of the contract in July.

    Thanks, and sorry for any mistakes I am very tired :(
  2. mummysue

    mummysue New commenter

    In a word NO, it will nver get any easier, the more experience you get the more tasks will be sent your way, each more time consuming and demanding untill you end up working at home, on weekends and in the holidays.
  3. picsgirl

    picsgirl New commenter

    Your first week? Give yourself a break.

    Any job is difficult at first. It takes months to settle.

    No, the children will not listen to you - yet. They need to get to know you first. Stand your ground, be consistent and you will see results n the long term.
  4. Belle60_3

    Belle60_3 New commenter

    Yes, it does get easier in my experience, but it takes many years (depending upon person) before it does. There is a lot to learn both about yourself and the job, plus lots of other stuff to get your head around, and it takes time.
  5. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    I agree you haven't given yourself enough time in the job to get to grips with it: a week is hardly any time at all. You say it is the constant nagging to the children about their behaviour that is the problem.

    That is all about behaviour managment and you will get better at it. Read some good books on how to manage behaviour at the key stage you are working with. You might be pleasantly surprised on how much better you get at it with learning some techniques and once the children get to know you. Saying that, because they are children, it goes with the territory that you have to repeat things - sometimes many times because they are still learning.

    On a more practical level, seeing this job for a year will give you a good reference, more experience of working with children which you could use in another capacity such as social work, or other area working with children. In addition to those considerations, the job market is still tough and you might not be able to find something else. Looking at it more positively, you might actually start to enjoy it in another few weeks.
  6. Thanks for your replies everyone. And oops, it's not my first week it's my THIRD week. I feel worse at the end of this week than I did at the end of the first.

    I get half way through the day and feel like banging my head against a brick wall. I'm just sick of constantly saying "Don't do that, stop doing that, why are you doing that, you shouldn't be doing that..." I'm starting to feel like all I want to do is say to kids "fine do whatever the hell you like, I've had enough."

    I know I'm being incredibly negative about this and what I'm saying doesn't sound very good at all! They are children and this is the way kids are, they like to push boundaries so I know it's my problem and not theirs. It just feels like for 6 hours of everyday it's constant, full on and I end up feeling stressed and shaky and tearful by the end of the day.

    I've decided to apply to do a Masters degree in Art Therapy next september to become an Art Therapist instead. The reason I wanted to do teaching in the first place was because I am interested in psychology and was thinking of one day becoming en educational psychologist, so I know that if I want to work with children then this will be excellent experience to have. I just wish I didn't feel so stressed :-/
  7. Belle60_3

    Belle60_3 New commenter

    In the meantime you have to get through, so you should try telling them what you do want them to do rather than what you don't...eg 'stop running' turns into 'walk' stop shouting turns into 'speak quietly'..there's a very subtle difference but it makes all the difference. I always find that telling them the reasons you want them to stop a certain type of behaviour helps too. 'I want you to speak quietly because others are finding it difficult to concentrate while you're making all that noise'
  8. Thanks Belle60_3 I do try to do that...but it's like, once they stop pushing one boundary they find another to push, or once I've dealt with one child I'm having to deal with another one, so that's why it feels constant. I've always been told how patient I am, but even this is too much for me! Hats off to teachers and other teaching assistants who can do this kind of work!

    Thanks again everyone, I think this job just isn't for me, but I'm going to try to stick it out. It's fixed term for a year so I'm going to take it a term at a time! If the stress starts to make me ill then I'll have to leave, but for now I'm going to stick it out. I hate quitting, I'm not a quitter and I hate the thought of letting the school down! And the children, especially as I have already gained the trust of a few of them and been part of their progress.
  9. Underachiever

    Underachiever New commenter

    Belle's advice is good. Concentrate on the positives, rather than the negatives. Also, pick the battles you want to win. You won't stop everything, but some things aren't as important as others. Focus on the good behaviour, not the bad. If one child is sitting picking his nose, praise the student next to him for sitting beautifully etc.

    I always find it informative to reflect on how I feel if I'm praised or criticised. If someone tells me I'm good at something, or have responded well, I'm pleased and carry on trying to do it. If someone tells me I've done something wrong, or I'm not very good at it, I may have more resilience than a child, but it still makes me feel bad and less likely to make an effort in the future. Okay, so I may be a bit of a sucker, but I'm guessing most of us feel the same to some degree. It's human nature.

    Good luck.
    Yasmine2014 likes this.
  10. sky7

    sky7 New commenter

    Don't be so hard on yourself! Which year group are you with? From your post it sounds like you're in Key Stage 1 or reception. Perhaps being in Key Stage 2 would suit you better as behaviour has generally improved by then, and the children don't need constant reminding to do things.
  11. tamtams

    tamtams New commenter

    Sorry to sound negative but in our key stage 2 they do, for example please put your name on your work and do most of them NO and that's in year 5 a simple task like that and that's just off the top of my head I could go on.
  12. I'm working with KS2 - Year 6 children. When I did my volunteering I worked with years 2, 3, and 4. I think I enjoyed year 4 the most. Also, the school I volunteered at was a small rural primary school and the school I'm currently working at is a large community school divided up into primary and secondary. There are three teachers in year 6 each with a class of 20. I'm only working with one of these classes, but I do wonder if I'm finding it more difficult because it's such a different environment a more fast paced, noisy environment and also maybe I'm more suited to working with the younger children? I dunno :-/ Will give it a few more weeks, hopefully my mind and nerves will start to calm down!
  13. it's really early days - all the kids will be needing time to settle into their classes and get to know you, just as you are getting to know them, so it's unrealistic to expect things to be perfect from the beginning, but it does sound like you are having a tough time! it should get easier. i felt exactly the same way when i started out as a TA last year. a few tips - don't take it personally if it seems the kids aren't paying attention to you or are running you ragged. it doesn't mean you are a bad TA - you're still learning, and you'll be improving every day (even if you don't feel like it!) talk to your class teacher or other TA's about how you're feeling - they should be able to give you some constructive feedback on things to do/say that will get the kids on board. i agree also with Underachiever - pick your battles. don't try to control every little thing around you. take your lead from other TA's working in your school - are they trying to control behaviour as much as you? when i first start out in a new school i have to ask myself whether i'm trying too hard to get the children to behave perfectly because i think 'that's what a TA should do'. as you know it's counter-productive to pick up on every little thing you see as you end up in a bit of a stress bubble. so in short: be easier on yourself, ask for advice and observe those around you, pick your battles! and remember to breathe a big sigh of relief at the end of each day, because no matter how rotten you feel, you've done a good job that not everybody could do :)
  14. I've been a TA for 11 years. It does get a little easier, but each year group are different. I agree with mummy sue, the more experience you have the more you are expected to do, and I could go on about pay or overtime but TA's just like the job (ha ha)
  15. Well...it's been 8 weeks now and I still feel just as bad as when I started...

    I have never worked as a teaching assistant before this job and I expected when I started it that I would be given training...but it's been a case of do what I think is expected of me without really know what is expected of me...

    I'm given tasks to do, (photocopying, marking books and homework), which I complete just fine, although sometimes it's hard to find time for these tasks when I am also supporting students in the classroom.

    There are a few issues I am having:

    No supervision - are teaching assistants, or at least new teaching assistants, usually given supervision of some kind? Because since I've started, I have never had a one-to-one with the teacher or anyone else to discuss how I'm getting on, so I'm constantly left thinking, "am I doing a good job? Is there something I could do more of?"

    Another issue I have is that the class is divided up into groups based on their ability and I will usually be given one of the groups to work with, which is fine, but what often happens is students from other groups will come over to me asking for help, so I find myself trying to help them and the group I'm in. There was one moment in class where I moved away from my group for a moment to help a student and the teacher said to me across the room: "Miss .... are your group okay? They don't seem to be doing any work." It felt like she was telling me off for moving away from my groupd and this left me feeling embarrassed and stressed. Am I supposed to ignore requests for help from students who are not in my group?

    And finally, I take the children out at break time, supervise them, and bring them back inside. Depending on what mood the children are in it can be very challenging getting them to come back inside sensibly. I have found ways to manage this now, one of which is by making sure I have a hold of all the play equipment and balls so they aren't tempted to start kicking them everywhere, and by focusing on those who are behaving sensibly.

    I also escort the class to the secondary school, which is in a separate part of the bulding, where they are taught textiles by a different teacher. I stay with them there and escort them back. Again, managing behaviour can be tricky.

    There is also one particular student who can fly off the handle at any time. He has had a difficult upbringing which has resulted in sometimes violent behaviour. I have not had any training with how to deal with him. I'm mostly work from instinct and on a couple of occasions he has fled the classroom and I have been told to go after him, which I do, and through chatting with him one-to-one I have been able to calm him down and bring him back to the classroom.

    I have just found out that I will be getting behaviour management training in a couple of weeks, but it feels a little too late!!

    I'm just so stressed from it all that I can't cope, so I'm looking into finding a job elsewhere. One that is more on-to-one work and not in a classroom environment,

    I suppose I just feel really incompetent. I have made some great connections with the kids and I feel that I have gained their trust, but I have lost all my confidence and I'm sick of feeling unhappy, stressed and exhausted all the time.

    Any thoughts?
  16. It's a shame that you have had no Induction or Supervision. Your school should be doing this so new TAs don't face what you are facing. Have you spoken to any other TAs for help and guidance? It sounds like you have built up experience quickly and your main difficulty is with behaviour management which will be helped by the course they are sending you on. Not all schools are like this...some support their new employees and offer them a chance to discuss their problems and successes. Ask about this kind of opportunity at interview in future.
  17. I'm sure I've had that year 6 class too! If the teacher does say mrs ....... Your group are not doing........, I would answer I was just helping red group till you arrived! Yes in a ideal world we would be shown what to do, how to help each young person but I've never been shown how to deal with any one of them or the individual files or needs. Speak to the teacher please. Oh and good luck!
  18. I don't think any TA ever has proper training, we mostly figure it out as we go. If there are certain students behaving badly, make sure you tell the teacher. Otherwise, they think everything you say won't be followed through on.

    Although it sounds harsh, maybe its a good thing you took the job because you see that a PGCE would have been too much for you. That's less time and money wasted.
  19. So, we're all back after the Christmas break .... you've had time away to re-charge your batteries & get some perspective. How's it going?

    I love my job as a TA. I work with the whole school Reception to Year 6's and I'm also working in our centre for children with autism, so although, I'm not with the same children day in day out but the advantage is I'm gaining experience of every age group.

    Year 6 are notoriously big headed Lol! They're the big fish in the little pond, remind yourself that they'll be little year 7's soon enough and you'll miss them once they've gone.

    The relationship between the teacher and assistant dictates so much. You are there to help them, so, please talk to your teacher about what they want from you and how they feel you're doing. You might be surprised to find out that your help has been valued & you're not incompetent. ;-)

    Training - I've very lucky, our head is very pro-active. I told her that I'm happy to go on any training that's on offer and she's taken me up on it!! In the past year I've been on "Managing Challenging Behaviour", "Paediatric First Aid" "Food Hygiene" "Inclusion in the Playground" "Team Teach Safe Handling" as well as the usual TD days training e.g. Safeguarding Children, fire safety, data protection & confidentially, allergy & epi pen training.

    ...but I received no training before I got the job and unlike the banking & sales jobs that I'd had previously, there is no induction course. We learn on the job by doing it and asking questions of our colleagues.

    The job is challenging, no doubt about that but it is also so rewarding.
  20. so im really curious to know what you ended up doing, did u finish the year?

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