Teacher Assistant Duties That'll Help You FINALLY Lead Your Own Class
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—sometimes called a teacher's aide—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 the duties of a teacher assistant may be the perfect stepping stone toward leading your own class—or even preschool facility!
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 some of the 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
Many of these skills overlap with the skills lead teachers need, specifically first aid, lesson planning, mathematics and record keeping. That means that mastering those skills will help make you a desirable lead teacher in an employer’s eyes.
Of course, other skills are helpful for assistant teachers, too. “As an assistant, I feel it is important to have basic knowledge of child development,” Sueppel says. “Time management is helpful to support the lead teacher since learning has no end.”
How can you gain experience in early childhood education?
The question of how to gain experience before you land a job can be a tricky one, but it doesn’t have to be. There are several ways you can gain experience before becoming a teacher, such as guest teaching, volunteering at museums, coaching a sports team, being a summer school teacher or leading a Girl Scout or Boy Scout troop.
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.
“When you start as an assistant, you get to know the routines, the children, the way things are handled, etc. without the responsibility of being the lead and being in charge of making sure these things are handled,” she explains. “You get to learn the questions you need to ask.”
Sueppel adds that every preschool is unique and will have different needs and requirements for teaching assistants. Every program aims to help each child develop to his or her fullest potential, but there are various methods to achieve that goal. Being a teacher assistant will expose you to different environments, helping you adopt your own teaching style for when you lead your own class.
Ready to take the first step?
Now you know how beneficial it can be to start your career as a teacher assistant. It’s possible you’ll actually land that movie-worthy dream job on your first try, but it’s always nice to have a backup plan. Learning about these teacher assistant duties should help you realize that whether you’re an assistant or a lead teacher, you’ll still have an important impact on the children in your care.
If you have your heart set on becoming a lead teacher—or even someday running an entire preschool facility—a college education may be just the thing you need to take that next step. The great news is that your time spent working as a teacher assistant could make earning your degree easier. Check out the Rasmussen College Early Childhood Education degree page to learn more about how their flexible, competency based programs can benefit you.
*Source: Burning-Glass.com (analysis of job openings for teacher assistants, Jan. 1, 2017 – Dec. 31, 2017)