I have worked in the same school for nineteen years – yes I know, it’s a REALLY long time! I haven’t done the same job all the way through though. I started as a Learning Support Assistant, this means you basically support individual children in their learning, this might be because someone struggles with certain things, perhaps a pupil with dyslexia or just general learning difficulties. I worked in the special needs support unit for a few years, which involved mainly working with children with physical or emotional disabilities. Some children need a bit of extra support so they learn better in a smaller environment with less pupils – so a larger adult to child ratio. I then worked as a teaching assistant and for the last few years a Higher Level Teaching Assistant. I gained HLTA status by proving I met certain standards, completing lots of written tasks and having lesson observations. Being an HLTA means that you are able to teach a class (following a teacher’s plan) if the teacher is away or on a course or having planning time.
Working in a school is a really varied job, in case you don’t know! It really doesn’t mean you sit in a classroom all day long just helping children with reading or writing. It can involve (among a thousand other things) teaching classes when the teacher is off sick, taking groups of children to boost them in maths or English, supporting children in the classroom, putting up displays, preparing resources, keeping records and being someone that children can turn to if they have a problem or are worried about something. Importantly you need to keep children safe, you have a responsibility to look after these children while they are in your care.
The job can also include supervising children at lunchtime. That could be a job in itself! Encouraging children to eat their food, hands up who likes school dinners! 🙋🏻♀️ Supervising children playing on the playground and field. Wow who remembers playing handstands at school? I have fond memories of when I was at my first school of all being in a row on the field and the person would call “Snow rain thunder lightning” for a normal handstand or “snow rain thunder scissors” where you had to make your legs move like a pair of scissors. Gosh I can’t remember what all the other things involved in the game were we used to say, but I used to love it! I’ve just totally gone into reminiscent mode and have decided I am going to write a post about playground games I remember from childhood!)
Sometimes lunchtimes can mean sorting out disagreements between children. Some schools follow something called restorative justice which is a brilliant idea. You have to get the two (or more) children together and ask them questions to think about how their actions have impacted on the other person and then get them to think about what they can do to make it right. It works really well and it really does get them to think. Sometimes lunchtimes or playtime might just mean chatting with a child who looks lonely or who has no one else to play with, it might mean you need to encourage children to have the confidence to join in a game with someone.
In addition you get to go on trips to some fabulous places, help create things, give encouragement and try and boost morale. I’m an adviser and a friendly face and ta shoulder to cry on and many more things.
You might help at after school clubs or Christmas fairs, or swimming galas or school plays. You need to be professional at all times and use positive praise – this means looking for things, even small things, to praise children for and focusing on the positive rather than the negative. You want children to enjoy school and to want to try their very best so they can be the best that they can be. It is important too that you can encourage children to be able to work independently, after all you don’t want to be stuck to their side forever!
You also need to be good at remembering names if you work in a school because, well I’ll give you an example, if you work in the juniors and there are four forms per year group that would be 480 children’s names you generally need to know at one time. That’s a lot isn’t it?!
So there you go, working in a school is a really rewarding job and it’s a great feeling to know that you can have a positive impact on so many people’s lives and contribute, with others, in shaping the future generation in a positive way!
Sometimes though it gets to the point when you know you have been in the same place for a very long time and, in your heart, you know you need to seek a new challenge. For your own personal growth you know you need to start looking around and exploring new opportunities. That, my friend, is what I decided to do…