I have had the great pleasure of working with a variety of staff over the past decade as a teacher. TAs, or as they are called in my board Educational Resource Facilitators, play an incredibly important role in the success of my students every day. This year has been my first year that I have worked with 3 TAs all day and I have tried to make that relationship a positive one. I have made a ton of mistakes throughout the year but thankfully I have had the most patient and gracious team that has supported me as I learn my new role. I sat down with a few of them to ask what teachers could do to make the relationship between teachers and TAs work well. This is what they had to say:
- Everyone in the room has a need for information and everyone can do their job more effectively when they have all the information pertaining to students and the running of the classroom. It is important that teachers prioritize communication because much of the information will be given only to the teacher. Information from Speech and Language Reports, Parent phone calls, ISRC meetings and so on will only be shared with the team if the teacher has an effective style of communication. (I admit that I stumble with this sometimes. I feel like there is never enough time in the day to communicate everything I need to share. I am working at it and continue to make this a priority for my professional growth) My team and I realized that we needed a way to share information this year. We designated a place on the blackboard for all of us to place updates and reminders. It has been great way for everyone to stay up to date on things like pizza orders or letters that need to go home.
- Teacher is not the boss. I have heard TAs over the year talk about the few teachers that they have worked with who have come in and very clearly outlined that they are the boss and that everyone else works for them. It is important to remember that everyone has valuable professional knowledge that they bring to the classroom and when everyone is using their knowledge its benefits students. Teachers and TAs have different training and different roles to play in the classroom. As the teacher, make it clear that you value the skill set of the TAs placed with you. If everyone is doing their role and using their training the classroom has a greater chance of success.
- Don’t let things fester. There are a million things that can be irritating when you are in a room with people all day. It is best to deal with things that impact the ability to provide a good environment for students. As the teacher in the room, deal with things that come up and don’t let them go on for weeks and weeks or months and months.
- Getting to know the people in the room and using their strengths. Plan with everyone’s skill set,experience and knowledge in mind. Observe your team with the intention of analyzing the strengths in everyone. If you focus on what everyone brings to the classroom and highlight it regularly, it will make your class a happy place to be. If you focus consistently on the negative, the classroom will be a negative place. Within my team there is a fantastic artist, an unbelievable organizer and an eternal optimist. A teacher should really value the skills that everyone brings and utilize and highlight the amazing skills often.
- Different opinions. You will have different opinions. You have to remember that your training is different and you are often seeing things from a different perspective. It is important that you pick your battles and sometime just let things go.
- Let’s try and see. (This has been something that I have really learned this year). As a teacher, you should encourage everyone to give input into challenging situations with students. The team will work better when you try out a variety of suggestions. Even if the suggestion sounds really out there, what is the harm in trying something new? If it doesn’t work, go back to what you were doing before. However, you might just be pleasantly surprised!
- Having Fun! Lighten up. The most important thing to success. As a teacher, you often set the tone. If you are not setting the tone of positivity with all of your students and members of the team in the room, the room will often be a negative place to be.
- Isolated bubble. Being in a contained class can be very isolating. The only people who understand what is going on is you and your team. Model the expectation that you have each other’s back and that you will support each other through the tough times.
- Equity. Trying to make everything fair will be really important. Therefore, rotate which staff comes on field trips, to the park or does special events. Make a schedule and post it in the room.