become a teaching assistant

What does a Teacher Assistant (Paraprofessional) do?

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A teacher assistant works under the supervision of a licensed teacher and helps reinforce materials or lessons taught. They may help small groups of students, one-on-one, or work exclusively with special education students attending traditional classroom settings. Teacher assistants are sometimes referred to as teacher aides, education assistants, instructional aides, para-educators, or paraprofessionals. They typically work in private and public schools, religious organizations, or childcare centers mostly on a part-time basis.

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How to Become a Teacher Assistant

teaching assistant

Teacher assistants typically complete 2 years of college coursework or hold an associate’s degree. Coursework includes curriculum development, classroom management, and your role as an assistant. This can be earned at a community college or state college. In addition, you must be resourceful, patient, have good interpersonal skills, and the ability to communicate effectively. Almost all states require a teacher assistant that wants to work with special-needs students to pass a skills-based test. Check with the Board of Education in your state for more details.

Job Description of a Teacher Assistant

Teacher assistants reinforce lessons given by the teachers by reviewing materials with their students or assist those that may need extra help. They help enforce class rules and school rules to ensure the safety of all students. Some teacher assistants may be assigned to work with a special needs child. They teach, accommodate, or help them with the material being taught. However, sometimes they may also assist with personal hygiene or eating. Teacher assistants help monitor classrooms, lunchrooms, recess, and during field trips. They take classroom attendance, check homework, and calculate grades. Teacher assistants also prepare the classroom prior to students starting class such as setting up equipment, computers, or materials.

A teacher assistant usually works Monday-Friday and over 50% of them work part-time. They primarily work in the classroom, however, do work outside the classroom in the cafeteria or playground for example. The greatest demand for teacher assistants will be in settings that provide services to students with disabilities.

Teacher Assistant Career Video Transcript

Teacher assistants work under a licensed teacher’s supervision to give students of all ages additional attention and instruction, either one-on-one or in small groups. Teacher assistants— also called teacher aides and paraprofessionals— monitor students’ progress, and help them to learn the material that teachers present.

Assistants may grade tests and check homework, or for young children at childcare centers, they may supervise playtime, and help with feeding and basic care. Some teacher assistants work only with special education students. Assistants may adapt materials to the student’s learning style and help with understanding, while for students with more severe disabilities, teacher assistants help with basic needs, such as eating and personal hygiene. With young adult students who have disabilities, assistants may teach skills necessary for finding a job or living independently after graduation.

Some teacher assistants supervise students in a specific location, such as computer labs, recess, or in the lunchroom. Part-time schedules are common for teacher assistants, sometimes including riding the bus with students before and after school. Many work the nine-month school year, though some also work summers. Teacher assistants have a high rate of illnesses and injuries. Teacher assistants typically need to have completed at least two years of college coursework, or an associate’s degree.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Teacher Assistants.

National Center for O*NET Development. 25-9041.00. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.

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