Tell me about your job as a teaching assistant
August 1, 2017 8:18 AM   Subscribe

I have a job interview on Thursday as a teacher's assistant with the local behavioral school. I've been reading up on the school and such but I'm looking for first hand experiences about working as a teacher's assistant or paraprofessional in a school like this.

What should I make sure to ask them in the interview? What should I expect day-to-day? What do you love about your job?

The school offers tuition reimbursement, so there's a chance that I could be in this position for a while, working my way through more schooling.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit to Education (3 answers total)
It really depends on their philosophical basis. Do they do hands-on restraints? Will you be expected to do hands-on restraints? What is the theory behind the school? What is their typical population?

I worked at a school that was Adlerian philosophically, and we did no physical restraints whatsoever, but we also did not have any students whose acting out was primarily violent. Instead, it was about "natural consequences" and we worked very one-on-one, with individualized curriculum and they were expected to achieve a full mastery in a unit before moving on, which meant achieving a B or higher. Our school had individualized, family and group therapy, one of those being daily. Students would be taken out of class if they couldn't behave, and were interrupting the learning of others.

What I loved was that I could really work with kids personally (we only had 35 kids altogether) and we did a lot of outdoor experiential learning trips. I felt really connected to the kids, and the outcomes. I learned a lot and so did they. (It was my first job right out of college.) I learned a lot about various behavioral disorders and how to deal with each of them.

So, what is their philosophical grounding? Is your primary focus about behavior, learning or both? Have them take you through a typical out-of-control scenario, and the steps that they take to deal with them, and what your role will be in that scenario. Talk about what it's like for a student to go "up the chain of command" when they refuse to be talked out of misbehavior.
posted by RedEmma at 9:56 AM on August 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

It is hard to give a general response about being a teaching assistant. In the schools that I've worked it/had experience with, it can vary a lot.

In one school, the paraprofessionals pulled their students out of class either (a) because the student's behavior was disruptive* to everyone else or (b) the student could be better supported by extra assistance outside the classroom. Another school had a policy of keeping the students in the classroom as much as possible - so the aide stood/sat with the student to assist with student behavior, answer student questions, or support independent work. In all cases, when we sat down to discuss the student's progress or discuss an IEP, the paraprofessional/aide would be part of the meeting.

You may be called to lead the class when the teacher has to step out, especially if you're looking into education as a career. Or you could be making a lot of copies, doing grading, entering tracking data, lunch/recess duty, etc. - depending on how much support the teacher needs. The environment really impacts your role.

I suggest asking something like how do the teams support each other - is the principal/psychologist/social worker active in supporting the classroom or more hands off**?
Ask whether this position is new (e.g., people may not know how to work with you) or ask about the person previously in the role (e.g., did he/she leave to continue in a related field or just leave)

One of my friends finished his first year as a teacher's assistant and it really turned him off to teaching. Your first year of teaching is always hard - but the teacher's assistant gets most of the same stresses with less control. So you need to make sure you understand what you're walking into.

* No judgment - could be a cover for anxiety, challenges with home life, cover for difficulty learning material, or a multitude of other things.

** In one school, if you sent a student to the principal, the student would return in about 5 minutes with a lollypop. Unless the student was physically hurting someone or property, it was pointless to send the student out of the classroom - evne for things like flipping desks over or stealing other kid's food.
posted by TofuGolem at 9:59 AM on August 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you!

I interviewed with the director and principal first, then they introduced me to the teacher I'd be working for and she and I talked, no lie, for 45 minutes. The director had to come back and give the wrap it up signal because we were just clicking that easy.

I filled out the general application when I first got there, but before I left they had me fill out the paperwork for the background check and then the receptionist gave me a packet "in case" HR calls, including the paperwork for the drug test and fingerprinting.

This might have gone great!
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 11:08 AM on August 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

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