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Here's what you might not be expecting when you become a teaching assistant.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Here's what you might not be expecting when you become a teaching assistant.

Are you about to start a new job as a teaching assistant?

How do you picture it? Playing with kids, maybe some photocopying, a bit of admin, home at 3.30…that’s what our TA friend, Katie, was thinking too.

It’s safe to say, her time in the classroom hasn’t been so simple (otherwise we wouldn’t be here)! Yes, it has involved all of the above, but there has been another element that’s played an immense role in her teaching assistant job: behaviour management.

You might have been under the impression that teachers handle this side of things when, in fact, it will be something you find yourself dealing with more often than you think.

“The teacher can’t just get up in the middle of a lesson and walk out, whereas I can.”

This being said, working as a classroom assistant is a lot of fun and something so rewarding, you’ll never want to leave!


Katie has worked as a teaching assistant within primary schools in Northamptonshire for four years.

“I thought I wanted to be a teacher, but it’s not what I thought it would be; a lot more is behaviour management than actual teaching. A teaching assistant’s role is used for the lower ability groups.”

She might have changed her mind about becoming a teacher, but she has found her place in the classroom, and although it's challenging, she loves her job as a TA!

So, let’s see how she imagined it and what her experience has really been like…

"I pictured it as I wouldn’t be dealing with behaviour – that’s the teacher’s job. I thought I'd just be having small groups of children and do the photocopying, all the admin, assessments etc, and I still do all that…with the behaviour management chucked in! The teacher can’t just get up in the middle of a lesson and walk out, whereas I can, so I think that was the main difference in my mind."


Potentially this is an element you haven't considered, but classroom management will play a large part in your job. Don’t let this scare you as you will receive lots of fantastic training on behaviour management in schools (which we’ll go into a little later), showing how to handle these situations. You’ll probably even find that the kids who challenge you the most in the beginning, are the ones you make the deeper connections with as the school year goes on.

What are the kinds of behaviour that you encounter in schools?

"A lot is actually verbal – they can be quite nasty! They'll get under tables and lift them up or lay on the floor punching and kicking. We’ve had runners, someone trying to jump over the school fence, another trying to run out the front door, biting, scratching…yeah, you find all sorts.

It’s frustrating because they go from being little angels and then they switch – something that’s so minor will seem so big to them."

Not every school will be this way and require so much classroom management, but Katie’s has a special Designated Special Provision (DSP) unit, which means they have the resources to take on students that other schools won’t.

The DSP unit offers social and emotional support for those who aren’t perhaps getting the nurturing they need at home.

Are there any common triggers that initiate these ‘switches’?

"It could be anything; it could be that someone’s looked at them funny, something another child has said or that the teacher didn’t pick them!"

Are there any patterns with the children who struggle in school?

"From what I’ve experienced, I think the bad behaviour comes from those who don’t have interaction with their parents. There are the children who get picked up at 3.30; their parents come to everything, make an effort, they’re how you’d hope and expect a child to be: innocent. It’s when someone comes in and says the police turned up - they’re the children not getting what they need, and I’ve had that. They don’t realise it isn’t normal and I think that’s awful."

What are the behaviour management strategies in your primary school?

"The first thing you normally try and do is to ignore them. We also have 'calm boxes' that have activities in them to make the kids more relaxed.

If they don’t work, that’s when you have to get someone else, and sometimes just seeing a new face calms them down – someone just to come in and say, ‘Hello, are you alright?’ They often take them for a wander to get to the bottom of the situation before bringing them back to say sorry."

Even though you don’t have to take a ‘teaching assistant course’ to land a job as a TA, you are provided with regular training throughout the year (inset/teacher training days) by your school and encouraged to take online assessments. These will keep you up to date with the latest ideas and classroom management tactics. 

Training courses

Teacher training days are typically split with activities for teachers and teaching assistants and cover a variety of topics. You’ll attend a training course that shows you how to document a child’s development effectively, as well as those which demonstrate how to diffuse challenging situations or restrain a child safely.

One of Katie’s favourite outside training companies, Team Teach , visits schools and teaches de-escalating strategies and ways to reduce risk or the need for physical restraint as a behavioural management strategy.

There’s also Jogo, whose focus is on the social and emotional wellbeing of children.

"They show you things like Lego therapy, which is all about teaching the children skills they don’t learn in the classroom. It’s about giving the children a calm space because a lot of the children don’t get calm at home, they just get chaos.

I always enjoy training days."

Another training course you're likely to do is the Jolly Phonics. If you haven’t heard of Jolly Phonics, it’s a programme designed to help children read and write. However, rather than including the letters of the alphabet, it teaches letter sounds with actions.

Be prepared, this course is four days long!

If you’re looking to take up a SEN job, SEN behaviour management strategies and training may differ slightly.

What are the most effective classroom management methods you’ve learnt on the job?

"With my lower group, I take them out on the playground and do phonics. I’ll literally get them to run to sounds because I know that’s what they respond to. If you’re in a classroom all day, they don’t take it in – you’ve lost them after about 10 minutes (if you’re lucky)!

[Dojo] wasn’t there when I first started but I have seen the difference it has made. There wasn’t a solid way the children could see what they’d achieved or what they were aiming for before."


If you haven’t come across Class Dojo (not to be confused with Jogo mentioned earlier!), it’s a reward and communication system used within primary schools. The class are set targets, like be kind or be responsible (set your own) and get points for when they do these things. It’s a visual way the children can understand their progress, and the parents can too via an app.

What’s your advice to those stepping into the classroom for the first time?

  1. "Expect the unexpected! Don’t go in thinking that everything’s going to go to plan because, 9 times out of 10, it won’t.
  2. Children can be quite manipulative, especially when there’s more than one adult in the room. They’ll play the TA and teacher off against each other, so it’s always good to double check what they’ve said.
  3. Always have fun with them – they’re fun little things when they want to be!

What you get from the children is totally different; every day is totally different.

I love it, I really do love it!"


if you’re looking for teaching assistant vacancies or part-time teaching assistant jobs like Katie, get in touch or download the SupplyNow app to learn about our opportunities in Kent, Surrey, West Sussex and south east London. As far as teaching assistant agencies come, you don’t get better than our FairPayNow Guarantee!

Perhaps you’re not a new teaching assistant but a newly qualified teacher! If this is you, check out our blog ‘SOS - I'm Heading into NQT Year!

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