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Training up a TA...

Discussion in 'Early Years' started by Doodlem, Jan 8, 2012.

  1. Hi. I teach reception in a small village school (16 in my class) I have a TA in the mornings but it is just me in the afternoons.
    I have found that over the last term, the list of things I could ask my TA to do is getting smaller and smaller and wonder if anyone has any tips?
    All my previous TA's have been incredibly hard working, lovely people who i have gotten on very well with. And while she is very nice, she doesn't seem to have any common sense...
    As she arrives at the same time as the children in the morning, I have set up a 'jobs book', explaining what I would like her to do each day - but I find I need to write every single little detail (even if its something she has to do every day like check the home-school books for any notes to me), I can't let her leave the classroom as she'll dissappear for 20 minutes faffing about with paperwork that isn't urgent or chatting to someone else, I can't leave her anything too complicated to do as she won't understand it so just leaves it (last week it was 'please mix up some orange paint' - which is didn't do because she was unsure on what shade i wanted...).
    Changing the classes reading books takes her all morning and I have spoken to her several times about her manner with the children when they are reading - she started by reading the books to them rather than letting them decode the words, then would shout and get cross with them for getting words wrong and now she has taken to getting out every phonics resource I have each time a child gets a sound muddled to 'help' them (which just confuses them more). Before we broke up for Christmas I was debating finding another way to organise things so that I hear more readers (I hear each child once a week atm) but just don't have time in the day...
    I can't even give her a small group to work with as she won't follow my instructions (because she hasn't understood them!) so the children end up confused and told off - not a great atmosphere for them to learn... E.g. I asked her to complete a simple counting task with a group of 3 children (picking a number card and counting out a number of cubes to match the numer) - she was telling them the answers, shouting at them for getting it wrong, introducing addition and subtraction, drawing number lines, getting puppet characters involved... I stepped in a couple of times (oh sorry, i thought I was helping... was her response) and in the end I called the class together for a mini plenary and did the activity with all of them to model how to do it...

    Sorry but I needed to have a major whinge!!! I feel like i'm constantly having to have a 'little chat' with her and there are only so many times I can ask nicely...
  2. Loony tunes

    Loony tunes New commenter

    No advice I'm afraid but I'm in a similar position and it really got me down towards the end of term. If anyone has any suggestions I'd love to hear them.
  3. Just to sympathise - it's incredibly stressful when you end up in this situation - been there before myself, and I have to say the TA ended up being a greater cause of stress than any of the children with quite severe behavioural difficulties in the class - but mine used to love to scheme and undermine me at the school gate with the parents too which added to it all.
  4. I too am in the same position. And agree it makes the job more stressful and harder. SMT aren't much support either.
  5. I'm sorry to hear this is such a problem but also kinda glad that i'm not the only one!
    I've spoken to the head and she has said she has been aware of the issue for a few years - this TA basically gets moved year groups every other year because the teachers can't cope with her!
    I have a 16 year old work experience girl one afternoon a week and a retired lady from the village (in her 80's!!) an hour a week who come in and help out and they are both better than the woman being paid to support the class! Seems crazy!
  6. lizzii_2008

    lizzii_2008 New commenter

    Wow, what a tricky situation! Have you been to the SMT?
    How did someone like this get the job? Is she level 3 trained?
    Could she purely support play? If that happens within your classroom. Or direct her to lead the 'painting' or 'modelling' areas (dependent on what areas are in your classroom) and basically she can work and play alongside children without directing adult led activities.
    Obviously the mixing paint or whatever needs to be done yourself, and by the sound of it you'd get the job done much quicker.
  7. Leapyearbaby64

    Leapyearbaby64 New commenter

    I started as an NQT in a tiny village school with well meaning but incompetent TAs. It's really tough. Can you find any time in the day to go through the jobs needed the next day? Has she been on any training courses?
  8. Sounds as if in some areas she is over-confident, for instance making decisions about how to teach a group, and in others she lacks confidence, for instance in mixing paint! Could it be that she thinks mixing paint is 'beneath her'? If that is the case maybe she thinks she doesn't need to follow the instructions you give, and thinks it is better to act on her own initiative. You might need to do some work on encouraging team work to show her that you need to work together, and that acting on initiative, while having its place, has to happen with dialogue between you. Could you build in some time to reflect on the day, and how sessions went? Talk about how things were for you and model having a reflective, sharing approach. Then expect it from her, listening to her viewpoint and talking it through. It will take a lot of patience. it might be worth giving her time observing how you hear readers and how you work with a focus activity plan Meanwhile in your focus planning tell her exactly what resources to use, and if possible prepare a tray with everything she needs ( you may already do this), include, in the plan, questions she can ask the children. If she overreaches her remit make time to simply ask her why, and remind her that she needs to stick to the plan, however frustrated she feels about it, because you ultimately are the person who is answerable for the children's progress. Try to do it with patience and keep good relations, but challenge her none the less. It will be interesting to see how she reacts! I nearly had a stand up argument with a TA once because she was not doing as asked, and she accused me of not respecting her ( although it was her who was doing the disrespecting!), but she was much more careful after that to look at the plans and follow them. And we managed to stay cordial.You've titled your post, 'training up a TA', that's unfortunately what you will have to do. I wouldn't just get her to support play, as she can probably do even more damage in that role! It demands a lot more sensitivity than she seems to possess, and it would be even harder to keep tabs on what she is up to.Good luck!
  9. With my particular TA nemesis - it would quite literally have been the fact that she would have needed a precise description of the exact shade of orange required - she could not (I don't know if it was a lack of confidence or what) ever act on her own initiative on anything - even something as basic as thinking "oh that's a nice bright orange, I'll take that out and if she wants a redder orange I can always pop back and stick some more red in later." She just couldn't think in that way at all - it was incredibly bizarre (and it's not just my view on her - her previous class teacher - the most sunshiney, positive one you'd ever come across - never one of the resident moaners - really got pushed to breaking point with her as well).
    When working with groups she'd tune out for the lesson input and then do what she thought they'd been asked to do with them - bulldozing them into her misconception - and it wasn't as much support, as spoon feeding - writing everything for them to copy and calling it job-done. You couldn't really turn around to the kids and tell them they hadn't done what you wanted - since they were acting under the direction of an adult I was keen not to undermine (despite her undermining me so effectively we had a "if Miss Flibble says no, go ask Miss A.Non" situation going on in the class).... oh and mine was so far in cahoots with the school secretary and supreme overlord of the stationery cupboard (i.e. Ruler of the Known Universe in the average primary school) that any requests or attempts to address the undermining (she'd relish standing at the school gate stirring it up and overegging her priviledged role within the classroom - you know the sort, melodramatically bigging up "Oh Miss Flibble wouldn't POSSIBLY allow that" - when in reality if they actually came and asked me it wouldn't have been a problem at all - painting me to be an utter ogre) were met with her immediately running to the office for a 20 minute plotting session and me subsequently being tried and found guilty for numerous administrational sins and wrong-doings against the school office (with attached complaints to the head - who always passed them back to me with a wink and a "yep they're going off on one again" rolled eyes)!
    Oh and she had her own "job" - she had to do the home-school diary for a child some of her hours were supporting - and she guarded it jealously and spent hours writing in it every day - and it was utter utter tosh! It was like some semi-fictional biography of an angel child, with lots of phrases like "and Johnny has played happily with all his friends all day" - when in reality Johnny had kicked three kids in the line to assembly, and ended up in the Head's office for mooning someone!
    And that's before she climbed over an entire carpetful of children in the middle of a whole-class input... in order to show me the photo of her tortoise!

    Only way I found to manage it was to really pre-empt everything - down to specifying the number of scoops of powder paint required ot make up a given colour and sticking signs up in the sink area to that effect - kind of the same way Subway have completely standardised sandwich-make-up guides (but you'd still have to tell her "use the instructions on the wall and it'll tell you how many spoonfuls you need" - she wouldn't read it of her own volition). Or producing an exact sample of what you wanted the kids to make in a creative activity (which defeats all scope for child-initiative)... and using her for things that she couldn't do wrong - so I'm afraid we resorted to a lot of "can you mount these on this paper here - it's on the 3rd shelf in the art cupboard if we run out" or "can you back this display board for me - here's the backing paper and border roll"... and I found several practical activities for her to take kids out into the yard to do on occasions I really really just needed a sanity break (this was recommended by management who knew what was going on with the situation by the way - not just me being awful!) - so I had a blissful morning with all the "difficult" characters inside (who were angelic without her fussing and undermining) while I sent her out with the absolute sweeties (I wasn't THAT cruel - she got all the utter angels while I kept anyone who could be deemed to be a remotely tricky customer!) to measure things outside and the like!

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