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My role as a volunteer

Discussion in 'Teaching assistants' started by Beeldi, Oct 5, 2018.

  1. Beeldi

    Beeldi New commenter

    Hi, So sorry that this is very long. I started volunteering at a primary school, in year 2, 3 weeks ago. I have very little experience in this role but would like to become a teaching assistant and have started the level 2 Cache course at my local college, The class is rather large with 2 qualified teachers who split the class between them for most lessons. I haven't had much communication with either teacher and I feel like a spare part, or even invisible, a lot of the time. When the classes split, occasionally one of the teachers will ask me to stay with their group but more often than not nothing is said to me and I make the decision based on which group I feel will benefit from my help the most. There are 2 things that are troubling me at the moment. One is my role and what I as a volunteer can and cannot do. The other is my feeling that the class, possibly much of the school, is disorganised and lacking in communication.
    There are 2 boys in the class who have 1:1 TAs and there are another 4 boys who are showing signs of behavioural/autistic tendencies.
    I haven't been told anything about these boys but I suspected/knew they had these tendencies and I asked one of the TAs who confirmed this. There is one boy in particular who basically appears to do his own thing, wondering around and playing outside the classroom and when he comes into the classroom and gets in the way of the teacher is sternly told to go and sit down or else he will have to go out. This boy appears to be able to read very well but refuses to do any written work. On the rare occasion that he does stay in the classroom he sits at a desk on his own. At the beginning of term he was sitting at a table with 5 other children. He will often shout out, in a whinging voice, usually to complain that he got the wrong answer or that he can't do a particular task right. I have taken him out of the class a few times in an attempt to engage with him and get him to understand what is being asked of him in the lesson. I have attempted to get him to write without much success. All he wants to do is play with cars, build and make cards for people (he plays really well and is very imaginative). When the school comes together in the hall for various things such as assemblies and harvest festival, etc., on every occasion that I have been there this boy has been taken out almost immediately at the first sight of any disruption from him. The other day the class had a special visitor who came to speak to the children about the topic they are doing at the moment. The little boy went into the hall and was immediately told to be quiet. I took it upon myself to sit with him on the floor in the circle, he sat on the floor in between my legs and I was instructing him to be quiet and listen. I noticed that the teacher and one of the TAs saw what I had done but said nothing. The little boy spoke loudly a couple of times whilst the lady was talking. I was whispering instruction to him to be quiet and listen and the teacher told him a few time to be quiet. The lady had some valuable items to pass around and instructed the children on how to handle them carefully. I reinforced her instructions to the little boy and I helped him to pass them around. I felt like I was making a little bit of progress with him as he had stayed in the hall for about 10 minutes without being sent out and was able to follow some instructions. I told him what a good boy he had been. I thought about offering him a tick on his chart if he continued to be a good boy but was unsure if I was allowed to do this (I am glad I didn't). The lady continued with her talk and warned the children that she was going to make a loud noise. There was a supply 1:1 TA there who politely instructed me to cover the little boy's ears. I told him what I was doing and he allowed me to do so. When the loud noise came the little boy screamed out and waved his legs in the air. I put my arms about him in some kind of attempt to calm him. The teacher raised his voice at him and told him not to be silly and at the same time one of the permanent TAs shouted at him and said that if he made a noise again he would have to go out of the hall. The little boy settled down again but a few moments later he raised his voiced in a whine to complain that he hadn't seen one of the items. I calmed him by saying it was ok he would see it in a minute but as I was saying this the same TA shouted that that was it and he should go out of the hall. She got up, came over to him and took him out of the hall. I was quite annoyed at this and I think the teacher saw that I was annoyed. I did not move but stayed in the hall. Some of the other children had shouted out but none of them had been told off. I felt that the little boy had missed out yet again and has already learnt that if he does get sent out he can go and do what he wants. What little progress I felt I had made with him was undone. He often says he is tired or hungry when asked to do something he doesn't want to do. He also often wants to sit on knees and snuggle up. He is 6. If I can't get him to do any work we chat and look at books or I read him a story. I am there only 2 days a week so I really don't know what happens with him for the rest of the time.
    The other thing that I'm finding quite annoying is the cloak room. It is a tiny corridor with a door at either end, one into the classroom and the other into the area outside the classroom. The teachers have not put any kind of structure in place to accommodate this fact. At the start of the day and at the end of dinnertime it is a free-for-all - kids squashed into such a tiny space, pushing and shoving for pegs and at the end of it all most of the coats and bags are all over the floor and stay there, unless I pick them up. I cannot understand why nothing has been put in place to address this, It is a health and safety issue waiting to happen! I am thinking of asking the teachers if I can set something up to combat this. I don't know how they will take it?
    Sorry this is so long-winded. I just need to know if I over-stepped the mark with the little boy by acting in the way I did and what if any authority do I have in my capacity as a volunteer. Should I be given information about individual children so that I can help them or should I just remain invisible at the back of the class? I am only trying to help at the end of the day.
  2. sunshineneeded

    sunshineneeded Lead commenter

    Hi Beeldi, welcome to tes. First of all, three weeks is a very short time to have been at the school. It sounds like a large and quite challenging class; the two teachers will still be getting to know the children. I'm glad you are doing your level 2 at college, I think that's always a better bet than an on-line course, and you sound to have a good insight already into ASD and some barriers to learning.
    I'm sure the teachers don't intend for you to feel left out - I think they'd be upset if they knew - like all school staff, they will just be so busy all the time. I don't think you overstepped the mark by sitting with the little boy in the hall, it sounds like the right thing to do to me - but I would try not to show your irritation in future if you think one of the staff has made a wrong decision.
    However, you do need some guidance. It's impossible to know what is expected of you if no-one tells you. Did you have a meeting with someone before you started - possibly the deputy head or SENCO? You could talk to them. But I think your best bet would be to ask whichever of the two teachers you find most approachable if you could have a 10 minute meeting with them whenever they can fit it in (before or after school, or lunchtime) to clarify exactly what they would like you to do and if it is OK for you to support the little boy. Are there any particular strategies they are using with him? What have they found works well? Should you be using the class reward scheme or is there something else which works better? Are there any particular tasks you can do at different times of the day which will support the teachers and children?
    Regarding the cloakroom, I'm sure the teachers are aware of the problem. I wouldn't say anything just yet, but if you have a good idea that might reduce the problems, you could try suggesting it when you've been there a while longer.
    Don't worry - it really is early days - and enjoy your college course.
    Trekkie likes this.

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