My Teaching Assistant Undermines Me

My Teaching Assistant Undermines Me (School Insight)

Schools are challenging enough for teachers and support staff without having to remedy work that’s not completed correctly or when a co-worker hasn’t followed you’re instructions.

Places where students learn and where teacher & teacher assistant (TA) work together as a team daily in class it’s vital good communication, teamwork, clear instructions are given and each follow they’re designated roles & responsibilities. When a TA decides to deviate from set plans or not follow teacher instructions complications occur that could impact learning and lesson quality depreciates.

What is undermining someone?

Cambridge Dictionary definition of undermine is

 “to make someone less confident, less powerful, or less likely to succeed, or to make something weaker, often gradually”

Example: If you continually criticize children you can seriously undermine their confidence.

Cambridge Dictionary

A teacher assistant can intentionally and unintentionally undermine a teachers class lesson or activity trying to constantly install they’re own opinion of how a teacher should teach or deliver a lesson.

Teacher being undermined scenario

In his second year of teaching, Adrian a maths teacher has just started a new teaching job after becoming a fully qualified UK secondary school teacher at a large inner city comprehensive school. He’s 23 years old and is given a full timetable of 28 lessons a week. His maths head of department expects him to raise attainment with 2 lower ability groups with the assistance of a teacher assistant (TA) that provides maths intervention booster lessons in small groups twice a week.

After 3 week of lessons with the whole class teaching maths topics Adrian instructs the teaching assistant to go over certain parts of previous lessons to reinforce learning with a small group of pupils that require further help. Adrian gives the TA work sheets, and instructions of what maths learning is required, set homework and time allocated. The TA immediately replies “well I usually do it this way and I think that’s way too much homework” and then walks of to class to provide maths booster help to the school pupils.

After 2 booster lessons in the same week Adrian approaches the TA to check progress with the pupils. The TA said he used his own maths worksheet and only gave 2 homework questions out of 6 to complete as it’s way too much for these low ability maths students. Adrian is annoyed at the teacher assistant for contradicting him, not following his instructions, and feels undermined as a teacher.

Clear communication before lesson in advance

Teacher being undermined

As a new member of staff and teacher Adrian should introduce himself, and has now done so, to other teachers and support staff, including TAs to build an informal working relationship and rapport.

Adrian has now made himself more approachable if the teacher assistant has any questions in the future. He has regular face to face and school electronic message communication contact with the maths booster lessons teacher assistant.

Adrian in future is making sure the teaching assistant is given the lesson topic & work sheets and homework in advance of a class or booster lesson, at least 1-2 days before. Notes, instructions will be in & electronic form giving the school TA an opportunity to look over the notes see the maths topic & contact Adrian before the lesson day if required, making the teaching assistant more involved in the process.

Arrange initial meeting with TA booster lesson expectations & TA role

Adrian has now made clear to the teaching assistant that covers his maths booster classes that the work sheets & questions are part of learning process the pupils require to learn as part of the wider maths topic. He informs the TA that pupils require understanding these questions enabling them to rejoin the class and be taught additional maths topics using the maths principals from the work sheets, teacher instruction and TA booster lessons.

Also, Adrian gives a subtle hint to the teaching assistant that the class teacher is in charge of the lesson topic, content and worksheets to be given to pupils in maths booster lessons. He did this by stating his maths head of department has informed him to follow the worksheet and give out 6 homework questions for pupils to complete, and he’s just following orders from his boss. Adrian is empathising what is expected from a teaching assistant during a booster lesson and the lesson outcome.

Get TAs input how the students respond in other lessons

Adrian tells the teaching assistant he’s fairly new to teaching, although fully qualified as a school teacher. He also tells the TA he’s new to the school and getting to know the pupils & he values the opinion, input and feeback suggestions the teaching assistant has as they know the students well. Adrian informs the TA they can use any appropriate teaching method they see fit to deliver effective learning to pupil’s maths learning.

Mention in discussion with head of maths TA deviated from instructions

The mathematics head of department had an informal meeting with Adrian to see how he was settling in as a teacher in the department and progress with teaching groups learning. During the conversation Adrian mentioned that the teacher assistant who takes the maths booster lessons for his classes overstepped & undermined him not following instructions and doing what they thought best.

From the two booster lessons Adrian was unsure if the TA had gone over the topic principles, maths examples from whole class lessons so school pupils received additional help. The head of department (HOD) said that teaching assistant had been with the school for a number of years, level 3 TA and has in the recent past deviated from teacher instruction delivering extra lesson help to pupils.

Maths HOD give guidance to Adrian since he’s fairly new to teaching, young and not worked with a teacher assistant before.

  • Introduce yourself to TAs and support school staff.
  • Provide the teaching assistant topic, materials and instruction at least a day before.
  • Give clear instructions to TAs.
  • Set up and keep regular communication between you the teacher and teacher assistants.
  • Get the opinion and feedback of TAs that have worked with the pupils before.
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