What is a Teacher Assistant?

Do you love working with children? Have you thought of becoming a teacher but not sure whether to take the plunge? You may want to consider working as a teacher assistant before you make up your mind!

A teacher assistant works under a teacher’s supervision to give students additional attention and instruction. This career should not be confused with a graduate teaching assistant, who is a university graduate student serving in a support role for their professor.

What does a Teacher Assistant do?

When a teacher introduces a new lesson to their students, a teacher assistant will help reinforce the lesson by working with students individually or with small groups of students. Assistants may also help students with research skills, or help teachers by grading tests, checking homework, and taking attendance.

The teacher assistant needs to familiarize themselves with the lessons and material the students are covering in class. Doing so may require reviewing the topics with the teacher to ensure that the assistant understands and can properly explain the information to students.

A teacher assistant helping a student with computer work.

A teacher assistant will typically do the following:

  • Reinforce lessons presented by teachers by reviewing material with students one-on-one or in small groups
  • Enforce school and class rules to help teach students proper behaviour
  • Help teachers with record-keeping, such as tracking attendance and calculating grades
  • Help teachers prepare for lessons by getting materials ready or setting up equipment, such as computers
  • Supervise students in class, between classes, during lunch and recess, and on field trips

Teachers may seek feedback from assistants to monitor students’ progress. Some teachers and teacher assistants meet regularly to discuss lesson plans and student development.

Some teacher assistants work only with special education students. These students often are mainstreamed (attend regular classes), and teacher assistants help them understand the material and adapt the information to their learning style. With students who have more severe disabilities, assistants may work with them both in regular classes and in separate classes. Teacher assistants may help these students with basic needs, such as feeding or personal hygiene. With young adults, they may help students with disabilities learn skills necessary for them to find a job after graduation.

Some teacher assistants work in specific locations in the school. For example, some work in computer laboratories, teaching students how to use computers and helping them use software. Others work as recess or lunchroom attendants, supervising students during these times of the day.

Although most teacher assistants work in elementary, middle, and high schools, others work in preschools and other childcare centres. Often, one or two assistants work with a lead teacher to give the individual attention that young children need. They help with educational activities. They also supervise the children at play and help with feeding and other basic care.

Are you suited to be a teacher assistant?

Teacher's assistants have distinct personalities. They tend to be social individuals, which means they’re kind, generous, cooperative, patient, caring, helpful, empathetic, tactful, and friendly. They excel at socializing, helping others, and teaching. Some of them are also conventional, meaning they’re conscientious and conservative.

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What is the workplace of a Teacher Assistant like?

Teacher assistants work in both private and public elementary, middle, and high schools. They also work in preschools, childcare centres, community centres, and for religious organizations. Teacher assistants may spend some time outside, when students are at recess or getting on and off the bus.

About 37% of teacher assistants work part time. Some ride the bus with students before and after school. Many do not work during the summer, but some work in year-round schools or assist teachers in summer school.

Teacher's Assistants are also known as:
Teacher Aide Teaching Assistant Education Assistant Teacher's Aide