Working with your Assistant

Do you work with a teaching assistant or aide? Are you lucky enough to have a paraprofessional to assist you in your classroom? Whatever their title, an effective teaching assistant can be a life saver, however, working closely with another person can also present many challenges. Today I'd like to share "Tips for Teamwork," some important ideas to keep in mind as you build a productive relationship with your teaching assistant!

As most of us approach the beginning of a new school year (except for my friends in the southern hemisphere), we have the promise of a fresh start right around the corner! Even if you are returning to work with the same assistant, you still have the opportunity to start things off on the right foot, and that requires communication.

  1. Think about what you need to do in order to be an effective teacher and then ask yourself what your assistant can do to support you. 
  2. Generate a list of jobs or tasks (really, write it all down) that you would like your assistant to do on a daily or regular basis. 
  3. Next, set aside time to talk with your assistant about your needs and expectations. This is when you share your list! Having it in writing just makes it more official. Of course, this list may change, but it serves as a great starting point. It makes everything explicit and allows your assistant the opportunity to ask you any questions he/she may have. While sharing your task list, it's very helpful to talk about what you have to do, so he/she has an understanding of why their job is so important. For example, after arriving at school I have students return and check-out books for reading at home each day; I ask my assistant to monitor and facilitate this process as I often have unexpected visitors (parents, teachers, or administrators) or parent emails to address before instruction actually starts. She knows that her active supervision helps to ensure that my students take care of their morning responsibilities while freeing me up to address other matters.
  4. Establish some kind of system for communicating. It could be electronic or old-school! Decide if you'll email things that you want copied, or have a "To Be Copied" folder. Explain how you will share a daily or weekly to-do list. Discuss having a set time to check-in with each other to talk about everything going on in the class, say once a week or so; this will help to ensure that the lines of communication stay open.
  1. Do not expect her/him to "just know what to do"- that's unrealistic as everyone brings their own experiences and perspectives to a given situation. You can't assume your assistant is familiar with every and all classroom routines or expectations, even if they've worked with other teachers before. Take the time to explain exactly how they can help you.
  2. Whenever possible, show your assistant examples of how you want things done. We model for each other all the time as teachers when we show each other anchor charts or explain activities we've done. I always like having a visual!
  1. This is akin to "do unto others." If you want your assistant to show up on time, then you should model timeliness, and so on. 
  2. While it can be easy become friends with your assistant, always remember to be professional and avoid gossip or sharing matters that are very personal. I follow this practice with everyone at work. I learned this lesson as a young teacher; I had shared some "inside information" with a new teacher on staff and she went right back to my principal! Yikes! I'm not saying don't trust or be friends with your assistant; just be thoughtful of what and how much you share with others.
  3. Show appreciation and say "thank you!" Everyone needs to be recognized and feel important! Let your assistant how much you appreciate his/her efforts and tell them when they do an exceptional job. The more you water a relationship with appreciation, the stronger and more valuable it will grow!
I am lucky enough to have worked with my assistant, Irin, for the past five years. We have a wonderful friendship and working relationship!
Pajama Day!
What tips would you give regarding working with an assistant? 

Thanks for stopping by! :)

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1 comment

  1. Karli,
    These tips are so important. Thanks for the timely reminder. :)

    Read With Me ABC


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