What Are the Job Duties of a Teaching Assistant?
If you'd like to interact with students, but don't want to become a full-fledged teacher, you might enjoy working as a teaching assistant. Your duties will depend on the age and level of students you teach. Most work is found in primary and secondary schools, but you also might work as a teaching assistant as part of a postsecondary program. Schools offering Teaching Assistant degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
As a teaching assistant, you may be referred to as a paraprofessional or paraeducator. Much of your time may be devoted to helping teachers in the classroom, allowing them more time to spend on preparing and presenting subject matter. Your presence in the classroom also may allow for more one-on-one attention to students and create more effective learning opportunities.
You might use a teacher's lesson plans or prepare your own teaching materials for some subjects. You may also assist students in the completion of classroom assignments, help students find information for reports, teach them to use computer software and other classroom technology, or specialize in tutoring a certain subject, such as math or science.
In addition to helping with learning activities, you might assist with a number of non-instructional tasks, such as setting up classrooms and decorations, copying materials, ordering supplies, and ensuring that necessary classroom equipment is available. You may be asked to keep track of performance measurements, administer tests, or maintain attendance and health records.
Supervisory Activities and Special Education
Another important aspect of your work may include supervising students in the cafeteria, on the playground, in computer labs, or while traveling to off-campus events, such as field trips. You also might monitor groups of students in the classroom to ensure completion of assignments and to keep everyone on track with the rest of the class. Some of your time may be spent assisting students who need extra attention, such as those who are learning English as a second language, students with learning disabilities, or students who need remedial education. You may also teach life skills to disabled students and assist them with getting to and from the bus or around the school.
You can qualify for many primary and secondary teaching assistant positions with a high school diploma or by passing the General Educational Development tests. While some employers offer on-the-job training, there are also many certificate and associate's degree programs that can teach skills you may need as a paraeducator. If you enroll in a certificate or degree program for paraeducators, you can expect to take courses on teaching methods, instructional strategies, and behavior management, in addition to gaining practical experience working with students.
Positions in Postsecondary Institutions
In some graduate programs, part of the requirements for graduation may include working as a teaching assistant. This may help to prepare you to work as a professor after graduation, as well as contribute to your understanding of a subject, while giving faculty more time to complete research or related tasks. Working under the supervision of university or college faculty, you might be in charge of teaching one or more classes, or you may offer help sessions and open office times for students to ask questions concerning lectures or assignments. You also might grade papers, monitor lab work, and proctor exams.
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