Many language teachers begin their career by working as teaching assistants in order to gain some experience. Sometimes certain schools also require new teachers to work as assistants before they begin teaching their own lessons. Teaching assistants can be a big help especially in larger classes with younger students, with an extra set of ears and eyes a large class can run along smoothly and the teacher can manage the class more efficiently.
Many people do not realize this, but a great teacher’s assistant can make the learning experience more worthwhile. As an assistant you should try to help with classroom management during lessons in order to keep things in order. Since one person cannot be in several places at the same time be attentive of the class at all times. If the teacher is busy with a student and there are other students who have questions, you as the assistant should come into the picture and offer some help. Assist any student who may have doubts, give them feedback and praise the students when necessary. Many times students might hold back from asking questions to the assistant if he/she does not get involved with the class from the beginning. Be sure to interact with your students just as the teacher does and try not to make the common mistake of hiding behind the desk or simply not moving around. Many assistants make this common error and end up becoming more of a personal assistant to the teacher rather than an assistant to the entire class.
During a lesson pay attention to what the teacher is saying and keep a close eye on the class. If you are in a class with young learners take the initiative and make sure there aren’t any interruptions during the lesson. Whenever students start chatting away or when the class clown starts interrupting the lesson as he/she usually does, make sure to settle them down before the teacher has to take action. If the class is going smoothly but you notice that the shy student at the back of the class seems a bit confused you may also offer some one-on- one help after the teacher has finished giving the lesson. The key point here is that you take some of the disciplinary workload off of the teacher’s shoulders and offer some extra assistance so that the lesson can be delivered more efficiently.
As you begin getting more involved with the class your students might start seeing you and the teacher as a team.
Many times there will be situations where team teaching will be necessary so if you take this approach from the start, you will be more prepared to take on this role. In many cases the assistant is usually a native speaker while the teacher is not, if this happens to be the case both of you should strive to work together in order to help your students advance in the language. At times both the teacher and the assistant may plan a lesson together, if this happens remember that you as the native speaker can offer some useful tips and exercises for the lesson. As the native speaker you can offer engaging speaking and pronunciation activities while the teacher focuses on grammar and writing exercises. You may also suggest cultural activities and recommend reading exercises related to holidays or festivities specific to your country.
Take some of the disciplinary workload off of the teacher’s shoulders and offer some extra assistance so that the lesson can be delivered more efficiently. As you begin getting more involved with the class your students might start seeing you and the teacher as a team.
Keep in mind that even if you offer your assistance and try to be the best helper you can be some issues might still arise. Sometimes certain teachers are not used to having an assistant and it may take some time for the teacher to get used to having you around. If you feel you are not being given enough tasks simply continue offering your help and have patience. In time the teacher will adjust to having a helping hand and soon you will be assigned more than enough work. Be sure to keep the lines of communication open between you and your teacher; feel free to ask questions and give some suggestions or opinions when necessary.
By observing and helping your teacher you will begin to acquire the necessary skills for when you need to start giving your own lessons. You will see that working as a teacher’s assistant is an excellent way to gain the necessary skills to be a great teacher.
How about you? Do you have any interesting or unpleasant experiences working as a teacher’s assistant? Let us know!