How can NQTs develop good relationships with their TAs?
Some teachers, especially in SEN provisions, work with many Teaching Assistants (TAs). This can be daunting for teachers especially those new to the profession; you have only just got the ink dry on the contract and suddenly you are responsible not only for your pupils but also for effective classroom leadership.
There are times when there is a clash of role vs. experience and NQTs might need some help to get through. I was once that NQT, fresh and enthusiastic, faced with three TAs all with children older than I was. Fortunately, I had also once been that TA as I was employed as one before I became a teacher and had both suffered and shone under the guidance of the teachers I supported.
Based on my experience from both sides, these are my 10 tips for managing the relationship effectively and getting the most out of it.
1. Hasten slowly
You feel like you want to change the whole of education starting with your new class. I know how exciting that feels. But please, just slow down sometimes.
If you rush in and turn everything on its head you will certainly upset people.
Yes, change things but go about it in a measured way with a clear rationale.
2. Pick your battles
Do you really need to get worked up over the exact placing of the class Christmas display? Or is it better to save your energy to focus on making sure that the children’s work is being evidenced regularly? You haven’t got the time or energy to fight everything so choose wisely.
Your TAs have probably had more experience of being in the classroom than you have.
One of my NQT year TAs had been in that role for 40 years whereas I had barely completed 4 minutes in a school!
A TA may be as equally anxious faced with supporting a class with an NQT as you are. They may have had bad experiences in the past. They may be worried what crazy ideas you are going to introduce.
Try and see yourself how they might see you. Are you bring assertive or overbearing? Humorous or sounding sarcastic?
5. If it’s not working, tell someone
So I told someone in the SLT and they carefully managed the situation so that everyone kept their dignity. It was the best thing I did and I learnt a lot about how to effectively manage staff in a supportive way.
6. Build relationships
Take time to chat and get to know your TA as a real person. You are going to be spending hours and hours a week with each other so a deeper relationship can help especially when times get tough.
7. Use them wisely
No one is going to be fulfilled if they are always doing the same tasks everyday so plan how you deploy your TA wisely to make best use of their skills and your needs. Remember to include TAs in planning with you whenever possible.
8. Take time out for yourself
Working so closely with another adult can be stressful and frustrations can arise. Take time out in the day to be away from each other. Just 5 minutes away and a cup of tea may be just what you both need.
I used to walk around the site the long way round if I was collecting resources!
9. Remember how lucky you are
Think of how many teachers would love to be in your shoes and have a TA for even an hour a week. There may come a time when you are in a role without one and you will miss them dearly.
10. It’s all about respect
You may want it, and they deserve it. If you go in with an open mind and a willingness to learn as well as lead, you will be just fine.
In summary, make the most of your TA. A teacher and TA can be a wonderful relationship and make your classroom a vibrant environment for your pupils.
If you found this useful, might also be interested in 5 Tips for NQTS: Reflect & Look Ahead.