What Is a Teaching Assistant?

Teaching assistants help teachers by completing housekeeping tasks and helping students as needed.
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Teaching Assistant Responsibilities

Teaching assistants are called many things depending on the area of the country and the school district. They are also referred to as teacher assistants, teacher aides, instructional aides, and paraprofessionals.

Teaching assistants fulfill a key support role in helping students succeed in the classroom environment. Their responsibilities can include the following:

  • Assisting the teacher with standard housekeeping tasks like taking attendance, collecting homework, and recording grades.
  • Helping teachers prepare and set up materials and information for lessons.
  • Reinforcing lessons and providing students assistance as they complete classwork. This might include small group or one-on-one help.
  • Enforcing classroom rules.
  • Enforcing school rules outside the classroom. This might include hall and cafeteria monitoring duties.
  • Serving as a sounding board and assisting teachers as they create lessons and classroom policies.
  • Helping teachers work through issues with individual students.
  • Helping meet the needs of mainstreamed special education students by making modifications to lessons as needed. This might include doing things like reading tests out loud and providing additional time outside of class for students to finish assessments.

Education Required

Teaching assistants typically are not required to have teaching certification.

Based on No Child Left Behind, teacher aides must meet higher requirements than in the past to work at Title I schools. However, these requirements are not necessary for food service workers, personal care assistants, non-instructional computer assistants, and similar positions. The requirements include the following:

  • Paraprofessionals must have earned a secondary school diploma or its recognized equivalent such as a GED.
  • They must also have completed two years of study at a college or university (48 semester hours) OR
  • They must hold at least an associate's degree OR
  • They must be able to at a minimum demonstrate through an assessment the knowledge of and ability to assist in instructing, reading, writing, and mathematics.

Characteristics of Teaching Assistant

Successful and effective teaching assistants share many of the same qualities. These include the following:

  • Flexibility. Teacher aides must work with their assigned teacher in the classroom. This requires a degree of flexibility as they are assisting the teacher in their daily teaching duties.
  • Dependability. Teachers grow to depend on their teacher aides to assist them in the classroom. Their plans might sometimes include the need for additional supervision by the teacher assistant if the class is divided into groups.
  • Ability to communicate well. Teaching is all about interactions and communication. The teaching assistant will be interacting with the teacher and students on a daily basis.
  • Love of learning. Teaching assistants need to show through their words and actions that they find value in what is being taught. They should never talk bad about the teacher or the subject to the students in the class.
  • Love of children and teenagers. The teacher's aide will be dealing with children and teenagers each day. Therefore, they need to enjoy being around them and believe that each can succeed in class.

Sample Salary

The median teaching assistant salary for 2010 from the US Department of Labor was $23,200. However, salaries vary by state. Following is a look at a few states to get a feel for the differences in average wages. However, pay varies widely based on the actual location of the job.

  • Alaska: $21,000
  • California: $24,000
  • Florida: $23,000
  • New York: $29,000
  • North Carolina: $22,000
  • South Dakota: $17,000
  • Texas: $21,000