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Assisting Teachers

Teacher assistants (also known as teacher's aides, paraeducators, or paraprofessionals) work with teachers and children and perform a wide variety of tasks. Assistants typically provide support for teachers mostly by:

  • carrying out clerical duties
  • working with children on their lessons
  • handing out materials
  • providing general supervision.
  • recording grades
  • setting up equipment
  • monitoring schoolyard behavior
  • chaperoning on field trips are other common duties

Teacher assistants typically perform a well-blended combination of non-instructional and instructional duties, while working under the supervision of the teacher. These assistants work with individual students or small groups of students to provide more specialized instruction and tutoring. They conduct mini-classes, review homework assignments, grade papers, keep attendance records, help with coursework, and help children with their reading abilities. At the high school level, teacher assistants usually concentrate on one specific area of study. In this setting, assistants often oversee large projects, handle workshops, deal with specialized equipment, and arrange class trips. It is not uncommon for teacher assistants to work in a laboratory, or in a computer center. They often help students conduct experiments, learn new computer programs, operate equipment, and maintain supplies.

Teacher assistants are more commonly used in special education programs. Many schools are integrating special needs students into traditional classroom settings. In these cases, teacher assistants are often assigned to the special needs student to tend to his or her physical needs and specific learning requirements. The assistant may help the student with lessons, keep student progress reports, set up accessible equipment, and even help with getting on and off of the school bus. Teacher assistants often meet with parents to discuss the student's progress and recommend other educational options.

Most teacher assistants work in traditional grade school settings; however, some do work in preschools or daycare centers. Preschools and daycare centers that have a large amount of students often request the services of assistants to help teach the children, as well as provide individual attention. These assistants may help to supervise young children while playing, prepare meals and snacks, and handle other basic care activities such as setting up nap time, or handling bathroom issues.

Teacher assistants may also work on an independent basis with infants and toddlers who have learning or developmental disorders. In this setting, assistants work under the supervision of physicians or therapists. The assistant is responsible for assessing the child, engaging the child's attention, playing games with the child, and working to improve basic behavior and learning practices. Community centers and religious organizations may also request the services of a teacher's assistant, to work with young adults with special needs.

The majority of teacher assistants work on a part-time basis, and a good deal of full-time assistants still work less than forty hours per week. Assistants that work in a traditional school setting work for the entire nine to ten month school year. This career can be physically and emotionally demanding, but can also be quite rewarding. Many assistants state they achieve a wonderful feeling of satisfaction from watching their students flourish and take an interest in the process of learning.


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