Landing your dream job is never easy. Only in movies do they fall conveniently into your lap. In the real world you have to work hard and sometimes work your way up the ladder.
By now you know your passion lies in education, specifically as a lead early childhood education (ECE) teacher so you can have maximum impact on developing young minds. You’re well aware that after you earn your degree you still have to find a job—that’s the tricky part.
But if your ideal teaching job isn’t ready for you when you’re ready for it, don’t despair! Becoming a teacher assistant could be the best starting point. We put together a brief breakdown of what this position entails using government data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Keep reading to learn why this position may be the perfect stepping stone toward the career you’ve always wanted.
What’s in a teacher assistant job description?
A teacher assistant, sometimes referred to as a teacher’s aide, helps the lead teacher in all facets of classroom management. Specifically, under the supervision of a lead teacher, teacher assistants help out in the classroom when students need extra attention, specialized help or anything else the lead teacher might ask.
Knowing what’s happening at all times is key to being a successful teacher aide, says Becky Sueppel, a preschool teacher in Reno, Nevada with 10 years of experience.
“An assistant should be observant, not only to learn from the lead, but to be mindful of the children's needs,” Sueppel says.
What are some common teacher assistant duties?
Job descriptions can tell you a lot about what a job entails, but the job duties and responsibilities often tell you more. Teacher assistant duties include reviewing lesson materials with students individually, assisting with record keeping, supervising students in and out of class and enforcing class and school rules.
They may also be responsible for working with small groups of students, creating lesson materials and communicating with parents. Keep in mind that specific job duties will largely depend on where you’re employed and the unique needs of the particular lead teacher with whom you’re working.
What are some important teacher assistant skills to possess?
What kinds of skills do you need to be successful in the duties described above? Who better to ask than the employers themselves? We gathered real-time job analysis data from Burning-Glass.com to identify the 10 most common skills listed in job postings for teacher assistants. Here’s what we found:
- First aid
- Child development
- Special education
- Lesson planning
- Office equipment
- Record keeping
- Training programs
How can you gain experience in early childhood education?
These experiences can help prepare you for becoming a lead teacher and you’ll learn some things teachers wish they knew before starting the job, including how each child is an individual and why you shouldn’t wear your best clothes when working with children. Sueppel has been both an assistant teacher and a lead teacher and thinks that being an assistant is the perfect starting point for gaining experience.
Ready to take the first step?
Download our Education Career Guide to learn more about the skills needed, job options and earning potential of careers in the education field.
*Source: Burning-Glass.com (analysis of job openings for teacher assistants, Dec. 1, 2013 – Nov. 29, 2014)