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How Do I, as a TA, Ask a Teacher to Differentiate Work for a Pupil I’m Supporting – When They Don’t?

Teachwire Agony Aunt Nicole Ponsford tackles the relationship between Teaching Assistant and teacher

  • How Do I, as a TA, Ask a Teacher to Differentiate Work for a Pupil I’m Supporting – When They Don’t?

As you will all know, the relationship between a TAs and teachers differ from classroom to classroom.

In some schools, TAs have a clear voice in both the planning of lessons and in the staff room. In others, not so much.

So, how do we make the dream work when it comes to team work?

The ask

I would assume that you are not having planning meetings in advance of the lesson to discuss issues such as this, or you are unsure how to phrase it.

A teacher who ‘assumes’ that a TA can work through a lesson without support, frankly, is wasting the time of both the TA and the student concerned. So the sooner you do this, the better.

So, how to ask? Directly and immediately.

You might want to start by asking the teacher for a meeting – just the two of you – in the next few days. Allow 20 minutes or so for this, and take an agenda of no more than three points.

Express how you feel (what is working and what isn’t) but also offer solutions. Ensure you allow time for their reaction and processing – as well as their views on how they see your effectiveness.

How could this be a more effective working relationship? If you need more time – plan for it. Don’t rush the last few minutes of the conversation as this is important. Suggest you have at least a weekly meeting for planning and feedback can iron out any kinks for the next few months.

If you can have the resources in advance of these meetings (and the lessons) – even better.

Three is the magic number

Another route would be to involve your line manager if you either want to plan your approach or need a helping hand. I would suggest writing down examples, issues and ideas in advance of this meeting – as well as ensuring you have time to discuss this in full.

Different strokes

You mention ‘differentiation’, and this is something of a bugbear to me. I prefer ‘personalisation’.

Each child is an individual and we need to ensure their unique needs are being met at school.

If you are working 1:1 with a student, you are already aware of their temperament, their likes/dislikes and their strengths in lessons – and what their barriers are to learning.

Differentiation can need further differentiation when you are working 1:1, so I would suggest you champion ‘personalisation’ as your approach.

This will ensure the teacher understands they need to plan with you more, and you can ensure that the student you are working with comes first.

Being heard

As a side note, it might also be worth discussing this with your line manager (SENDCo?) to explore how TA Voice is heard (or not) in your school.

Realistically, you are probably not alone.

Consider how information/messages from SLT and the teaching staff are communicated to you, and what the expectations are on you to access meetings.

It might be that you need timetabled email time – or that you could rotate a TA per half term to attend staff meetings (including SLT) in order to feel in the loop more.

Let me know what happens!

Nicole Ponsford is an educational writer, editor, speaker and coach. She is the the co-author of TechnoTeaching: Taking Practice to The Next Level in the Digital Age, and co-founder of TechnoTeachers. Follow her on Twitter at @nicoleponsford.

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