The work is hard but rewarding.
Teaching Assistant jobs are seen more and more as the gateway to a long and successful career in teaching. While this means that the rewards are greater than ever before, it is important to realise that the required commitment has risen too. You will probably be seen as a trainee teacher by most members of staff and so they will treat you accordingly; this means more respect, more autonomy, and more responsibility. The net effect of all of these things is: more work. If you can handle being a teaching assistant, you can probably handle being a teacher!
Being a Teaching Assistant doesn’t necessarily mean being a teaching assistant
Fewer and fewer schools are utilising support staff in a general Teaching Assistant role these days. General work with no real focus leads to everyone feeling a bit disenfranchised whilst wasting the school’s money and your time. Expect, instead, to be deployed into a relatively specific role like an Academic Mentor, Cover Supervisor, Learning Mentor or HLTA. These all have specific duties and responsibilities that lead to more direct outcomes for pupils and the school. Here is a link to a page that will explain the main differences.
You’re probably going to get a cold
If you can remember fresher’s week, you will probably have a hazy recollection of being under the weather. With the amount of new immune systems all differently tuned in close quarters, colds spread quickly. Schools are a similar beast except instead of freshers you have pupils. Expect to catch a bit of a bug and push on through!
You’re going to have bad days
No matter what school you go to, whether it’s an inner city academy or a village primary school, some days are going to suck. It is important to remember on these days that every job has its good days and its bad days. However, you’re unlikely to find a career where even on your bad days you can help shape students’ lives and make a real impact. Teacher support groups and unions are often open to TAs and don’t be scared of venting to your mates at the pub. Of all the careers, teaching was rated 2nd for jobs satisfaction (after engineering!?) so remember that when the going gets tough, your contribution is still vital.
Safeguarding is priority number one.
When you are surrounded by social media and digital information it is easy to separate out personal and professional. Workplaces often encourage employees to join Linked In pages, to use Twitter, and to blog. You may have your boss on WhatsApp or your client’s mobile number. Schools are different. You have to be constantly aware of the safeguarding implications of your actions – this means no pictures without permission (even pictures of pictures), no personal contact with students via social media, and no sharing of personal details. Turn your Facebook to the most aggressive privacy settings and learn the golden words: “the opinions here do not represent those of my school”.