Teaching Assistant Job Description

Are you considering taking on the job of a teaching assistant? To learn more, you’ll want to know what a teaching assistant job description entails. Why consider this as a teaching job?

Being a teacher is one of the most rewarding, some may say courageous, jobs to have. You get to give knowledge to a student and help them grow, not just academically, but also as a person.

While this job may be fun and rewarding, managing a classroom of students, no matter what grade they’re in, comes with full responsibility. Handling 20 to 25 students at one time can be overwhelming.

That is where a Teaching Assistant comes in. Although a Teaching Assistant is not the lead role, they are a presence that creates a more positive dynamic in the classroom.

What is a Teaching Assistant?

There are different job titles for a Teaching Assistant. Other titles given to this job type are a teacher’s aide or a paraprofessional. Despite the different titles, the jobs are the same. A teaching assistant works with the lead teaching by helping with, or taking over, several duties to make the classroom run smoothly.

Teaching assistants work in a variety of grade levels. They work in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classrooms, as well as in some older grades through college. Sometimes, a class is required to have a teaching assistant. For instance, a pre-K class has to have a teaching assistant because of the students’ age. Another class may have a teaching assistant because of a child’s special needs.

Teaching Assistant Qualifications

There are several qualifications that you need to be a teaching assistant. The qualifications vary depending on the grade level you are going to be assisting. While you don’t need a degree, you are required to have some college experience.

Most states require at least 48 college credit hours, or having two years of college completed. Depending on the state you are in, you may need to take a test to receive a teaching assistant certification before you apply. If you already have a degree, some states will allow you to receive the certification without taking the test.

In addition to the certification, you must also pass a background check, and have a high school diploma or GED.  Required training is mostly received on the job.

Personal Qualities and Skills

What skills do you need to be a teaching assistant? There are a few skills, as well as personal qualities that you need to be successful in the classroom.

For example, it is important to have organizational skills. This will not only help the lead teacher be able to work with ease, but will also set a good example for students. It will help them learn responsibility, and they too will be able to focus better in a clean environment.

A teaching assistant also needs to have patience, and be able to multitask. These are especially helpful when it comes to managing a large group of students.

Flexibility is an important quality, because things can change unexpectedly. Often, a teaching assistant may have to take over the classroom or stay after school to help with a lesson plan. Anything can occur in a classroom.

As far as academic skills, it’s important to have literacy and numeracy skills. These are essential for helping students learn grade-level material.

Last but not least — every teaching assistant should have a love for students!

Teaching Assistant Job Duties and Responsibilities

Being a teaching assistant comes with several different classroom duties. The main duty is to help out the lead teacher. What does this look like?

The lead teacher may have you be responsible for one student, or work in small groups. This helps meet the needs of those who learn on different levels.

As a teaching assistant you will help manage the class as a whole, and keep the classroom safe and tidy. This can include helping to create an organization routine, and for small children it can include disinfecting toys and wiping tables and chairs.

You will have to assist with students who are upset and have accidents. You will also help keep track of students in the class for field trips and outings.

Another duty is to help conduct any lessons for the day while the teacher takes care of other responsibilities. There may also be instances where the teacher may need help to brainstorm, create lesson plans, and grade papers.

At most schools, teaching assistants will have duties and responsibilities that extend further than helping the lead teacher in the classroom. The principal and administration of the school could assign you to do bus duty, daycare van duty, and assist with students who walk to school. These may depend on the grade level.

Other duties outside of the classroom could be a hall monitor at certain times of the day, as well as a lunch monitor. You may be asked to help manage students during certain assemblies or events that happen during school hours.

Challenges of Being a Teaching Assistant

Working at a school can be challenging for anyone. As a teaching assistant, this can also be stressful. You and the lead teacher may have students that come with challenging behaviors.

Some students may require extra attention. You will need to remember details about illnesses and allergies, learning disabilities, or special needs.

It’s a busy job! There may be days where you only have time for one break, or you may have to eat your lunch with the students.

Having multiple roles both outside and  inside the classroom can be a challenge, depending on the grade level you work in. For instance, you may have to break up fights and arguments, or the principal may ask you to cover another teacher’s classroom in an emergency.

Conversing with parents who may be unhappy with an incident, or just trying to get in contact with a parent, can be incredibly stressful. Being a teaching assistant is certainly not without its challenges!

What Makes Being a Teaching Assistant Interesting?

With all of the challenges that come with working in a classroom as a teaching assistant, there are also a great deal of rewards.

The first thing to consider is the opportunity to not only help teach students valuable skills, but to nurture and help them grow through the school year. You can take pride in giving a student the extra help and attention that they may not receive from home, or you can simply be someone that they look up to. It’s also a joy to see a student that you’ve been working with one on one have their “eureka” moment and gain confidence.

Since you are not the lead teacher, you typically don’t have to take work home. The lead teacher is usually the one who has to work after hours. Teaching assistants only work during work hours and don’t have to worry about the extra paperwork that comes with running a classroom.

As a teaching assistant, you will also get to hone different skills that can be used in future roles in the education field.

The school day is never the same throughout the school year, so you will have a varied schedule. A teaching assistant can have a full day outside helping with events such as Field Day, or working with students on field trips.

A great perk about working as a teaching assistant is that you get to spend a lot of time at home with family. You have week breaks and summer vacations, something you rarely see with other job positions outside of education.

Is It Worth It?

Being a teaching assistant is worth it if you do it for the right reasons. The teaching assistant’s salary is lower than the lead teacher and administration’s salary so if you are looking for a large check, it may not suit you. However, if you have a passion for engaging with children and helping them learn, it could be a job you truly enjoy.

Being a teaching assistant plays a big role in creating a safe community within the school and that is one of the most rewarding parts of the job.

But the bottom line? Being a teaching assistant is worth it because you are the bridge between that student’s learning difficulties, and their confidence in their ability to learn. You are the one who will be able to give a child the extra attention they need, and there is a joy that comes with knowing that.