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how to work effectively with this TA

Discussion in 'Teaching assistants' started by taji, Jan 18, 2011.

  1. I'm hoping someone will be able to offer advice on how to work more effectively with one of the TAs in my class. She is a very experienced TA in that she has been at the school for a long time, but I find her very little help in the class. If I didn't say anything to her she would happily sit on a chair at the back of the class and do nothing. Today I feel particulary low about it because the lesson didn't go well and while I was struggling with behaviour issues and some children not understanding the work she just sat and did nothing and what is more I felt she was judging me.
    I've tried giving her detailed plans of what I want her to do and it has helped a bit but if something unexpected happens she is seemingly unable to use her initiative about what to do. Also if I don't give her detailed plans one day (because they take ages!) she will never think to just do the same things that she has done before _ she will just go back to doing nothing. She doesn't always do what is on the plans either.
    Tonight I have written a detailed list of what I expect her to do at each point of the lesson. For example, please arrive on time, please read the plans, if you see someone misbehaving please have a quiet word, please write a brief note about the children in the group you are working with etc. - all things that the other TAs I work with do automatically. Do you think she will be offended by this? I like her and have a reasonably good professional relationship with her.
  2. Hi taji
    I'm an experenced TA and I'm afraid I would find your list offensive, arrive on time etc, Is she normally late?
    You don't say whether you are a NQT or an experienced teacher. What do other teachers say about her and her work/support?
    Personally, I find that if I am supporting a teacher I have known for a while, they know me and what to expect of me, supporting behaviour issues for example.
    But when working with an NQT that I don't know, I don't want to 'butt' in and give her the impression that I am over stepping the mark or making her feel inadequate. I tend to 'test the water' first, eventually that get to know and trust me and know that I will support them in everyway...but it is difficult to begin with, untill you get to know each other better.
    I would suggest just that, take time to get to know her and make a friend of her, use her experience to help you and ask for help..it usually works. (but don't leave a detailed list)
    Good luck

  3. Thanks for the reply. I was afraid that it might be offensive but I am really finding it hard to manage her. This is my second year working with her but this year I have a big class and some behaviour issues.
    Yes she rarely arrives in class on time. She doesn't bother to read plans, even if I am being observed she just casts the plan I give her to one side and disappears off to chat to her friends. She does nothing unless specifically instructed to do so and doesn't always do things then. For example, I have asked her to make a note of how the children in her group got on with their work, but she never does it. I work with another TA for one afternoon a week and she is wonderful. Funnily enough she is the one who is always asking if what she did was OK!

  4. Hi taji,
    it does not sound as if you are expecting anything more of this TA, other than for her to do the job that she is paid for !
    Do your TAs have a line manager/ performance management ? If the answer to this is yes maybe you could pass on your concerns to your TA's line manager and let them discuss with her how she needs to be supporting children in their learning.
    It is unacceptable for your TA to be regularly late and not respond to direct instructions/requests.I am an experienced TA and I know that my job is to support my class teacher by doing what I am asked to do, because we have worked together for a while I feel confident to use my initiative when necessary. If in doubt I always check what is required and follow plans carefully.
    It sounds as if you have made several very reasonable requests to your TA which have not been successful. Maybe you could try once more, have a conversation with her: explain your expectations and ask her for her feedback on how she expects to be deployed within class and how she would like you to communicate with her.
    Your list of duties sounds perfectly reasonable to me, she should be doing all that anyway.
    Sorry this is rather a long response! To sum up try talking honestly to her first, if that fails go for it! Give her a list ( and maybe a copy of her job description too !)
    Good luck !

  5. If I was working with a 'new' teacher (one I hadn't worked with before) I wouldn't be offended by the list at all. I think it's a good idea to know expectations. But I agree with other replies, speak to the line manager too. Is this TA approaching retirement perhaps, and just marking time?
    Wish I could be more help, hope the matter is resolved soon.
  6. I am an experienced TA (well HLTA actually) who is within a year or two of retirement, but I am most certainly not just 'marking time'. I realise that this lady could be. If you decide to approach the line manager why not ask for a generic list of expectations and duties of TAs within the school as a gentle reminder to all, (at least that's what could be said!!). This could prove valuable to any new TAs too. This way it would not seem personal. Have you spoken to other CTs she has worked with? No TA should behave in the way this person appears to. Do you think you have said anything that could have been misunderstood? Mind you regularly being late is an issue the Head should be made aware of, or is she in school and just late getting to you?
  7. Thanks for all your thoughtful replies. I have spoken to the Head and she was very sympathetic. I have decided to prioritise two issues and raise those with her tomorrow. If that doesn't work then the Head will try to improve things via performance management.
    Thanks again
  8. Sometimes a list of jobs can be useful as we can all forget things, but I have a feeling that this is not what you mean. The headteacher/SMT at my school would expect you to be able to sort matters out before taking them further, should that be neccesary. Bearing this in mind I would ask this particular TA if she would be prepared to stay over one evening for a chat over a cuppa and I would ask her if there are any problems. I have known TA`s resent the difference in pay between teachers and TA`s, especially as TA responsibilities seem to grow by the day and our Contracts of Emplyment can mean different things according to what need they have of us. She may believe that she does enough for what pay she gets. What level TA is she? If she`s been there a long time then I suspect she would be on level 3. If this is so she should only need the most minimum of instruction and should by now know what to do. Has she always been this way or has something happened recently at school or in her private life? You need to find out from her. Ask the other TA`s if they know anything that may have happened.
  9. Have you had a professional conversation with the other teachers she supports? If they seem to have no issues with her performance, have you asked how she is utilised in their lessons? Do they have a specific role they expect her to play or is she allowed to pick and choose how she spends her time.

    Obviously for you to say that she would sit there doing nothing sounds terrible and I personally would feel like a major let-down if I thought that a colleague of mine felt like this about me. We all have off days but by the sound of it she is using the time she is with you for a chill out. To be honest people like this give the TA's who do give a toss a bad name. My school has actually got a code of conduct for TA's which covers the basics which the majority of us do anyway. Talk to her line manager and see if this exists in your school.

    What KS are you working in and if KS3 upwards what subject? Are you new to the school or an NQT? If you are a specialist then is she unable (or feeling unable) to support your subject. I work in KS3 attached to a v. needy special needs class and dread drama lessons because that's just me.

    Speaking more generally give her certain tasks to do within the class. This could cover a lot of ground from helping with starters and plenaries, or visual and verbal assessment of learning (but on a really simple scale, traffic lights, hand signals, have a think.)

    You could also use some of your teacher skills on her. ?? Obviously you would deliberately ask a child a question who you could clearly see was not focussed, so why not suddenly ask her for a verbal contribution to help illustrate a point. For example if you are talking about the slums of Mumbai (only because we are doing it at the moment), ask something like 'Miss, could you think of some good adjectives (or describing words) that you might use to describe the conditions in a Mumbai slum?' Hopefully this will firstly focus the kids' attention on her (giving you a quick breather), secondly allow her to make a contribution from another perspective and thirdly keep her on her toes, so that she doesn't look bad in front of the kids. (I can tell you, this technique works.) You may want to proceed with another few questions to keep the pressure up, or take control back and ask the kids if they can think of any more. You are trying to expand her role and make her feel more involved, if she asks.

    If you are able to put the kids into small groups, she could be regularly be working with a particular group of kids. This could be in or out of the classroom, it's up to you.

    As for the whole no initiative issue, it just sounds completely unprofessional, and you need to take it further. In my school I know that teachers have spoken to TA line management when TA's are not delivering and said that they don't need them in their lessons.

    I appreciate that no one likes to rock the boat, and that experienced staff are often held in high regard. However what is the reason for that person being in the room? I'm sure it's to help kids progress.
  10. I think writing your detailed list for her to read is a great idea as it gives her a 'heads up' as to what you expect from her in the classroom. When you give it to her you could ask her to give you her feed back on the list and to let you know if she is ok with your suggestions. I think it is very important to be as open and honest with your TA as this goes towards making a better working environment. I know as a TA myself that both the teacher I work with and myself are both working together to achieve the best for the children we have in our class and as this is a joint goal then you must both be working together effectively in order to achieve this. As a TA I would welcome any feedback from my teacher as this only helps me in my job performance and a good TA should be able to take constructive direction from her working colleagues without taking offence.
  11. Taji, how are things with the TA now?
  12. Personally, I would tell her to up her game and tell her what your expectations of her are. There is nothing more unproductive than someone not doing their job properly. :)
  13. baileysonice

    baileysonice New commenter

    Maybe you could give her direct instructions on the hoof as the need arises? For example, if you notice a child not listening you could ask her to move nearer to them to help them concentrate? If you need a resource ask her to pass it to you - hopefully she'll start to use her own initiative eventually. I worked as a TA for seven years before I qualified as a primary teacher so I've seen things from both sides.
    A good TA would not mind being given direct instructions if it were done in a professional manner - after all they are there to support both the teacher and the pupils to ensure pupils make as much progress as possible! Sadly I have noticed that a few TAs do judge less experienced teachers - that it not their role! I think it can be a power issue and as a teacher you may have to pull rank a little. I'd ask her in front of the class what had delayed her if she arrived late - children can't turn up late without apology or explanation so she should be a better role model.
  14. That is very difficult to do for some people. I would find the forceful approach very tricky.
  15. baileysonice

    baileysonice New commenter

    You can still be professional and forceful at the same time although I find it much easier now I'm older than I would if I were a younger NQT.
    I've recently been undermined by a couple of TAs whilst on supply in front of the class. I've found that by giving clear verbal directions about the support I'd like in the lesson we seem to have found a degree of mutual respect and the children are benefitting from an improved level of support (which is what it's all about at the end of the day).
    'Tricky TAs' are sometimes not easy for other support staff to work with either, so this issue needs to be addressed. Ideally SMT/Senco would do this but, as we all know, in busy school environments this doesn't always get picked up on.
  16. " I'd ask her in front of the class what had delayed her if she arrived late - children can't turn up late without apology or explanation so she should be a better role model."
    If you want to embarass your TA and essentially treat them like a child in front of the classs then you should definitely follow this advice!! Or you could take the adult approach and catch the TA after the lesson and ask if there was a problem that was causing them to be late to lessons.
    As a TA myself, I often find I am late to lessons as in my role I can be supporting all over the school and am aften last to leave the classroom as I end up helping children with SEN who are slower than others to get themselves organised. Or I have to deal with pupil meltdowns. It may be that that there is perfectly reasonable cause for the lateness. Highlighting this would just show your ignorance and certainly not solve the problem!

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