After joining an educational recruitment agency Emma secured her first teaching assistant (TA) post specialising in autism support in a primary school
How did you get your TA job?
I graduated with a BA in Childhood Studies and signed up to an educational recruitment agency. They supported me in securing a range of temporary roles within mainstream primary schools and autism-specialist schools.
My work included one-to-one support with specific pupils, general class support and leading whole classes. The variety of skills and experiences that I gained enabled me to secure my current role, providing support to a pupil with social, emotional and behavioural needs.
Is your degree relevant to your job?
My degree provided the theoretical foundation required for working with children in an educational setting. I also undertook placements as part of my studies, which allowed me to understand the practical application of childhood and educational theory.
These opportunities enabled me to gain experience I could refer to when applying for roles.
What's a typical day like as a TA?
It starts by meeting with the class teacher to discuss what will be happening that day, and preparing resources accordingly. When the children arrive, I set them off with a morning task, which could be anything from handwriting to multiplication.
Once registration has taken place I provide one-to-one support to a pupil during numeracy and literacy lessons. This requires me to put behaviour management strategies in place to help the pupil engage in learning.
I may be asked to deliver additional small group activities, and cover break and lunchtime duties.
I am also responsible for planning and delivering a weekly 'ball skills' programme to improve children's gross motor skills and I co-ordinate language intervention support with English as an additional language (EAL) pupils. I also supervise after-school homework club once a week.
How has your role developed?
My role has developed through the increased level of responsibility that I have gained.
In terms of my career ambitions I am interested in applying for teacher training. However, I currently volunteer for a charity that works to support the rights of women and girls, so I am also interested in this area.
What do you enjoy about your job?
The best part of the job is the feeling that you get when you are able to help children reach their full potential. I also enjoy opportunities to be creative. Art can be applied across a range of subject areas, such as designing clocks in numeracy, creating story maps in literacy and learning about friendships in personal, social and health education.
The children respond so well to these activities because it's a fun way to be reflective and learn something valuable.
What are the most challenging parts?
A lot of the children come from difficult backgrounds. This leads to very challenging behaviour, which can be in addition to existing learning difficulties. I can never fully predict or prepare for what the day will bring. Resilience is key to getting through each day.
What advice would you give to others?
My advice would be that it's really important to find the right role and school for you, where you feel that you will be able to make a difference to children's lives. Working in various schools through the agency allowed me to gain an understanding of the different aspects of the role, and how I might see myself working.
Experience as a teaching assistant is a great stepping-stone if you're considering teacher training.