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TAs who tread on your toes

Discussion in 'Teaching assistants' started by caroharo, May 20, 2010.

  1. Does anyone else have problems with TAs who don't' seem to know how to support the teacher? As a part-timer who teaches several different groups in a day, I'm getting tired of TAs who (a) sit on the side chatting while I'm teaching then don't know what the children are supposed to be doing when they start their task and, worse, (b) jump in to discipline children when I'm using a more subtle strategy, e.g. tactical ignoring of some sort of behaviour. Perhaps they think they're helping but it just comes across as them thinking I haven't noticed some child's indiscretion so they'll sort it out for me. I have 30 years teaching experience and am perfectly comfortable with deciding when and how to discipline but these ladies obviously think they know better! Isn't tactful teacher support part of their training?
  2. I can't answer for your point a), but as far as point b) is concerned I would just point out that, btilliant as most TAs are; particularly in view of the fact that most of them probably earn less than half of what you do; I think it highly unreasonable that you expect mind reading to be one of their many skills.
    Have you ever tried communicating (talking) with them?
  3. You mean, pointing out to them that it's not their job to suddenly shout out at children during my lesson? I hardly think it takes mind reading skills to realise that it is the teacher's job to sort out discipline and that they are present to support 'their' child. But, yes, actually, I get on really well with the TAs and I have politely mentioned that I'll look after any problems of that kind because I like to select my behaviour management strategy according to the situation yet still the public recriminations go on - they just seem to do it without thinking.

    The purpose of my post was not to slate TAs but to discover whether any other teachers find this a problem. One doesn't wish to alienate one's TAs as they do do a great job in other ways but, having come across this very frequently in a variety of schools, it seems to me that their training does not address this sensitive area.
  4. Not every teacher/TA team works this way. Many TAs are expected and encouraged to implement the school's discipline procedures and work in partnership with the class teacher when doing so.
    Perhaps you should have mentioned that in your original post. I retract the 'mindreader' comment.[​IMG]
    I can't think why you posted on the TA forum if it was intended to be shared with other teachers.

  5. I think that there is a lot that schools could be doing in terms of training to help teachers and TA's work out the best ways to work effectively together. The role of TA has changed over the years and that line between teacher/TA role is more blurred than it might have been a decade ago. Some partnerships work and some are less effective and a lot is down to personality.
    I can sympathise with you, I work as a HLTA and have a teaching assistant who has the habit of strolling through the classroom doing jobs and suddenly stopping and yelling at one of the children on the carpet that I am teaching. I used to get a bit uptight but she does it to teachers as well, I think it is a lack of understanding of behaviour management.
    Chatting whilst you are teaching is unacceptable, you might have to ask them to stop as you find it distracting for yourself and the children.
  6. Thank you, Dragonflyali - it confirms my perception that training seems to be weak in this area. As a teacher, it can be tricky to approach TAs who do this sort of thing as there can be a tendency for them to regard this as a reprimand which is not helpful to the relationship.

    In response to Maizie: certainly, they should be backing up the school's behaviour management policy but should have the sensitivity to realise that when someone else is in charge of the lesson, this should be done with subtlety. Perhaps posting on the Teaching Assistant forum will encourage TAs to examine their own practice. I'm sure I'm not the only teacher who reads this forum - it can surely only be in the interests of all of us to understand the difficulties others are facing.
  7. bluebell27

    bluebell27 New commenter

    We have nine TAs in our primary school with varying degrees of experience. However, I can't recall any problems teacher/ TA have in their classrooms. I think this may be down to good communication between the different adults in class and how TAs have discussed what each role is in class. Whilst some teachers like yourself prefer to control behaviour yourself [and that is totally fine] others prefer to share this role. We have a class [KS1) behaviour chart in class that I introduced to the teacher as it is something I had seen in the resource area from here. We were discussing how to keep the attention of two children in class without specifically targeting their inattention on the carpet. In view of discussions with both TAs in class and the teacher we came up with a strategy that rewarded good behaviour which involves catching good listeners and moving their photograph up a ladder. In this sense we all do it [doesn't disrupt teaching]. However what most of us do is observe how the teacher approaches things and we follow their guidance without undermining anyone.
    If I was working with a new teacher I would welcome a discussion in the working relationship- and yes it is rude to interrupt but that is down to individuals not necessarily that they are TAs. So I should think needs tackling however,uncomfortable it may be.
  8. Whilst I agree with most of the posts, I can also add that as an HLTA, i have also come across teachers who openly discuss things in the classroom whilst I am teaching, which I find too, very distracting, I have also seen teachers just walk into the classroom, helping themselves to resourses whilst I am teaching, without the decent courtesy of using basic good manners.
    There is no training required, just decent, commom courtesy.
  9. As a TA about to start GTP I'm reading this with two hats on but will answer as a TA! I work with two other TAs who've only been TAs since October and if I'm honest they drive me potty! They will both try to start a conversation whilst the teacher is teaching, I try to ignore them but they don't get the message! They will both question the teacher during input too, she's very patient with them but I do wonder if she should maybe speak to them about it otherwise how else will they learn?
    I will sometimes pretend I don't know what they children are expected to do so that I can 'test' their understanding and listening skills - it makes them think! Also, I have the teacher's plans so I know what's happening - do your TAs?
    I totally agree that TAs should not reprimand children during input, however I have been accused of not being pro-active in behaviour management by the Deputy Head (I complained, she left!) She hadn't taken into account that it is the teacher's responsibility to manage the class and that we (the teacher and I )have a good non-verbal method of communication and only if I miss a cue will the teacher ask me to deal with something. The only time I will take it upon myself to deal with behaviour is if we are working in groups or I can see that the teacher hasn't seen something that she would normally address.
    As for training, what training? I'm qualified to level 5, almost 6 and have never been 'taught' how to support a teacher, that comes from experience and developing relationships. I do believe that it is the responsibility of the teacher to set ground rules and hope that when I'm qualified I would work with my TA to establish an effective working partnership.
  10. If you don't share your strategies and practise with TAs then how can they know how to support the teacher? I like TAs I work with to address behavioural issues if they spot them before I do and tell them this. If I have decided that I would like to try an ignoring technique then I tell them and if someone forgets, including me, expect to be reminded of this. Sometimes chatting may be a problem (rarely) but don't fotget that we are all human and like a gossip, I find a 'Shhhh' directed at the class suffices.
    I would far rather have a pro-active TA than one who required constant direction, although I am happy to give this to people new to the role. Teaching now is about far more than 'being in control' of a class, it is about learning and TAs play an incredibly important role in this. Not just supporting it but developing it. Your TA is both an extension of you and something extra, I know it can be challenging managing a team but manager you are.
  11. I agree that it is really annoying and distracting when adults in the room are chatting rather that supporting the children. However it is sometimes necessary for a TA to find out what they are expected to be doing from another adult in the room. This is usually because they have not been given a copy of the planning or the lesson plan has been changed without their knowledge.
    As for disciplining the children, this should always be done in a way that does not disturb the lesson in line with the behaviour policy of the school. I have to admit there are times when I have diciplined a child when a supply teacher is in the class but only when a child is behaving in a way that I know the normal class teacher would not allow. It actually really annoys me when supply teachers let children get away with behaviour that would not normally be tolerated in the classroom. I usually quietly remind the child of the behaviour that is expected in our school.
    As other posters have pointed out, good communication between teacher and TA is the key to a good working relationship.

  12. It is *such* a fine line sometimes. For example I am in a certain classroom 5 times a week and know I am there as crowd control. I am expected to join in with behaviour management and have even sent students out of the class. This is still working to support the teacher, as they have requested I deal with it in this way. In another class all behavioural stuff is left to the teacher and I circulate checking students work, suggesting ideas etc.. I've tried to play it by ear really, but I also make sure I ask the teachers what they would like me to do and what would work best for them and the kids in the class. I try not to be a pain in the teachers ass - I would never dream of having a conversation with someone else why they are talking but I've seen it happen so many times! We're all trying our best, and no two people are the same - teachers or TA's!
  13. Hmm, I do that too. Perhaps I shouldn't.
    Some children really do take advantage of having a different teacher. It's not just about the behaviour per se, but it will tend to mean that they will end up not doing the level/amount of work that they are capable of, which is what I am there to help with. I also feel, probably completely wrongly, partly responsible if the class does not achieve what the usual teacher wanted because I am the one who knows the children. Additionally, she may have discussed it with me and the supply teacher just gets it written on a bit of paper, making me feel further responsible.
    When I was at college, doing CACHE level 2, we did talk about behaviour management quite a lot. It was largely about reward systems, using body language and facial expressions across the room(!) Having it included in the training suggests you should use it.
  14. I am currently working as a Ta in a secondary school, and have previous experience in a Primary setting as well, so will try to give my side to all this...
    Yes, I recognise that it is not the role of the TA to undermine the teacher. I (and the majority of teh TAs I work with - there are 25 of us in my school) constantly strive to maintain the correct balance in this respect, but it can be hard, particularly when you are moving around different lessons with a class. I have found that some teachers take your attitude that it is their job to deal solely with behaviour management, but others take completely the opposite view, seeing it as being their role to teach and the TA to facilitate this in whatever way possible - including keeping the class quiet. It may be that the TAs you are working with have come across similar teachers and are used to this. Also, in the school I work in "behaviour management in the classroom" is a part of the TA job description.
    You state that TAs need to recognise that they are there to work with "their child." Very rarely have I come across a TA job description that refers solely to helping one child - yes, you may be assigned to them becuase of their statement, but generally you are told explicitly when you begin that you are expected to work with the *whole class.* If I was seen to be just supporting "my child" and not supporting or managing the behaviour of other pupils I would be pulled up on it by the SENCo.
  15. champansara

    champansara New commenter

    Agree with the above. Also, I have sometimes found, as a qualified EFL teacher, that a minority of teachers do way to much talking (sorry, it's just my experience). We were taught in TEFL training to keep teacher talk time to a minimum, and have lots of examples/mimicking to help student comprehension, without long winded verbal explanations, something which some teachers could do with learning. They don't allow the kids quiet time, or group discussion time, so the TA has to give a simplified explanation while the teacher is still droning on. Sometimes the TA has to talk to their student(s) about the previous activity because that student wasn't able to get the hang of it, and the rest of the class has moved on.
  16. Having always worked as part of a team I do discipline children if necessary. All the TAs in school are expected to follow the behaviour policy and to be honest it is important the children see us doing so. The children give me the same respect as the teacher. They know I can reward or discipline if necessary. I just think this is so important.

  17. This thread has been quite interesting in general particularly the post by the HTLA "Teaching". Nice to know her school has found a way of saving money.
    As far as I am concerned the teacher controls, (or is supposed to), the classroom. While I have respect for the TAs who work with me I always make sure that they know what I need them to do and with which student in any lesson. This may be an idea, try directing the TA to carry out the tasks that you want them to do, not what they think they should be doing. If you think that a TA has overstepped the mark speak to them quietly after the class.
    As for the TA who thinks teachers "drone on" take a good look at the definition of TA you are not there to pass judgement on teachers you are there to support them.
  18. No one is saying the teacher isn't controlling the classroom but if a TA sees something she should act on it. You can't let a child get away with something because the teacher hasnt seen them. How would that make us look in the eyes of the children. Also I always consider my main job is to support children not teachers!!!
  19. champansara

    champansara New commenter

    'As for the TA who thinks teachers "drone on" take a good look at the definition of TA you are not there to pass judgement on teachers you are there to support them.'

    I agree, I am there to support. In the majority of cases I have a great collaborative relationship with excellent teachers. However, just because I am 'just a TA', doesn't prevent me seeing occasional bad practice. I am a professional. I will comment on it, especially in an open and anonymous forum, explaining my experiences. My comments are just as justified as any teacher. I would expect a teacher to comment on the bad practice of a TA if the situation warrants it too.

  20. “Also I always consider my main job is to support children not teachers!!!”
    Agreed to some extent, but you are also there to support the teacher if there are students in the class which need closer support. The teacher “should” know which students these are in any particular group and unless you are assigned to a specific student this should be at the teacher’s discretion.
    “My comments are just as justified as any teacher.” Again agreed,
    “I would expect a teacher to comment on the bad practice of a TA if the situation warrants it too.” So what is the problem here that is all the original poster was doing.
    My point is that the teacher decides on the management of their classroom and the behaviour strategy with each group or individual student, true the teacher should inform the TA of any specific actions, (or non-action), they are taking.
    The problem is that you cannot have two people trying to control the classroom it just leads to confusion.
    In my opinion TAs “should” be use to support individual or very small groups of students who have specific needs no matter if the needs are learning or behaviour and should not be used as surrogate teachers.


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