What are Teacher Assistants?

Paulla Estes
Paulla Estes

Teacher assistants are exactly what their name implies: they assist teachers. They are employed by both public and private schools to provide instructional and administrative support to classroom teachers. This allows classroom teachers to have time for planning lessons, taking breaks, and working with small groups of children. Teacher assistants also help with field trips, recess, and simply moving students through the school building in groups. They give the classroom teacher the opportunity to offer students more individualized attention.

A teacher assistant helps the main classroom teacher do his or her job better.
A teacher assistant helps the main classroom teacher do his or her job better.

In addition to helping, instructing, and supervising students in the classroom, teacher assistants often help with tedious administrative work, freeing up the classroom teacher to do the job of teaching the students. Assistants might grade papers, take attendance, file paperwork, make copies, prepare homework, and communicate with the main office about student affairs. They are also very useful for running errands, setting up field trips, and obtaining supplies or equipment for the classroom.

Teacher assistants may help students with academics and behavior.
Teacher assistants may help students with academics and behavior.

Commonly, teacher assistants give personal attention to special needs students. When a student with special needs is integrated into a traditional classroom setting, assistants are invaluable in assisting the student. They may simply help the student with academics and behavior, or they may provide complete care for a disabled student’s physical needs, such as feeding, cleaning, help in the restroom, and help with transportation.

Teacher assistants may help set up field trips.
Teacher assistants may help set up field trips.

Many teacher assistants work one-on-one with students who speak a different language. Often, while a student is simultaneously assimilating into a new classroom and learning a new language, an assistant can give him the help he needs to feel comfortable and learn more quickly. Bilingual assistants are always in demand.

Teacher assistants may grade student assignments.
Teacher assistants may grade student assignments.

Most teacher assistants work full time, in a nine to ten month school year, but about 40% work part time. Although the majority work with elementary and secondary school students, many work in preschools or child care centers. Teacher assistants might also work with infants or toddlers who are disabled or developmentally delayed, and many work with high school graduates and young adults who are disabled or have other special needs and are making the transition out into society. Someone who is interested in this job should enjoy working with children and have a disciplined classroom presence, as well the ability to teach students and follow the directions of the classroom teacher. While educational requirements for the position vary by location, in the United States, the federal government requires assistants to have a minimum of two years of college or to pass an educational evaluation.

Teacher's assistants are often required to work with students on a one-on-one basis.
Teacher's assistants are often required to work with students on a one-on-one basis.
Teacher assistants have a minimum education level requirement.
Teacher assistants have a minimum education level requirement.
Most teacher assistants work full-time.
Most teacher assistants work full-time.
Teacher assistants might help with grading assignments.
Teacher assistants might help with grading assignments.
In most cases, teaching assistants do not need to be licensed or certified.
In most cases, teaching assistants do not need to be licensed or certified.
Teacher assistants might assign homework to students.
Teacher assistants might assign homework to students.
Paulla Estes
Paulla Estes

Paulla is a freelance writer and website editor who currently lives in Maine. Paulla has a B.A. in English Literature from George Mason University and over 15 years of experience as a freelancer. She relishes the flexibility and consistency of working on wiseGEEK articles, as well as the opportunity to constantly learn something new.

Readers Also Love

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register: