In my 6 years here I have never had an assistant. My first job was at buxiban and had fairly large classes that were tough to manage as a new teacher with no experience. The age group was awful too… grades 4-8… real pricks.
Now I’m at an anqinban and have been here for 4 years. I learned the tough way from my first two years and my kids are a lot younger and come every day for 2 hours. I have had no trouble at all for 4 years. I wouldn’t know what to do with an assistant. Same at my kindy… no assistant. Have never had one…
Is it classroom management issues you are having? Behavioral? Better for you to deal with it so they learn to respect you and see you as someone who means business and not just the foreign face who comes in and talks…
Assistants quite often end up being more trouble than they are worth. If they take care of classroom management, then the kids won’t respect you, listen to you, or learn anything from you. If they translate what you are teaching…the kids won’t respect you, listen to you, or learn anything from you.
dangerousapple wrote:[quote]Assistants quite often end up being more trouble than they are worth. [/quote]
Some of them are highly spankable young maidens. One of my best mates here ended up marrying his classroom assistant.
I think that for kids’ classes, assistants can be very useful. It does take experience to know how to work best with them, though. There are ways in which the kids can be shown that the assistant is really an assistant, and that you are the boss. Taking charge of discipline issues yourself is a great help.
On the other hand, as the above posters have said, it’s perfectly possible to teach kids’ classes without an assistant. Experience helps a lot with this, as does some Mandarin ability. The latter helps for comprehension purposes (for example to know whether the kid at the back is talking to his neighbour for the hell of it or because he has some urgent problem that he can’t describe in English or that he’s too embarrassed to tell you about). It also helps for enforcing discipline occasionally.
I guess I’ve been lucky. I’ve always had an assistant and they’ve all been great. When I first arrived, they helped me learn to control my class and once I was able to do it on my own, they stepped back and let me discipline as I liked. Even if they have the urge to discipline them, we just talk about it when the kids are gone and come to an agreement on the best way to handle the situation in the future. I think it’s really key to keep the communication open with the T.A.'s because sometimes they have other pressures, or the parents have told them something about a particular child which affects the way he or she has to be directed in the class.
Even if there aren’t any discipline problems, having two teachers in the classroom can give you the opportunity to do a lot of interesting activities in the classroom, while giving the children proper guidance and supervision. My T.A. gives me an extra set of hands to move furniture or dress the children. She also provides an extra set of eyes, to help me catch kids who are struggling. (And I help her too. Sometimes we disagree on the reasons a kid may be acting out–laziness, exhaustion, or learning problem–and it’s good to compare our observations.) Furthermore, I really appreciate having her there to keep an eye on the class as a whole during times when I really need to focus on helping a particular student. And, she allows me to keep teaching to the whole class when one student needs special help, like a nose-bleed or crying for a parent.
T.A.'s are also nice to have because they’ve usually been at the school longer than you have and have a better idea of what you’re expected to teach–or what the expected outcome of the lesson is supposed to be. Sometimes the suggested lesson plans aren’t always clear, or at least the way of teaching them isn’t so clear to a newbie. And the T.A. can help you to remember the long-term goals and project deadlines–like graduation shows.
My school really supports teachers well, and it’s clear to everyone that the foreign teacher is in charge. If there’s a conflict between the foreign teacher and the T.A., usually the foreign teacher is left to make the final decision. If the T.A. really feels strongly about her position in the argument, she can approach the director with the problem. The director will then discuss it with the foreign teacher and encourage him or her to talk with the T.A. again and come to a compromise. If necessary, the director will act as a mediator. This system works well and I’m really happy with it.
In the right setting, having a T.A. can really be a blessing.
Great post, Persephone. If I remember rightly, you did your state school teaching certification in the US. I know a few state school teachers in the UK and the US, and I don’t know of a single one who would refuse a teaching assistant! But then, I guess that Western teacher training programs also give some useful ideas on how to use an assistant to best effect, like the ones you mentioned.
I think that the key is that the main teacher is able to be the boss. In the US and UK, I don’t think that would ever be in question. Here, that partly depends on the individual school’s culture, and partly on what the teacher him/herself does. Maybe there are two main parts to that. Firstly, it involves letting the assistant know that you’re both on the same side. That can include involving him/her in class activities, and also lots of little things to help a good working relationship: courtesy and respect of course, avoiding making him/her lose face in front of the class, lots of encouragement and positive feedback, and careful, diplomatic handling of any problems.
Secondly, the kids need to know that the buck stops with you. A few foreign teachers I know like to be the “good guys” to their students, letting the T.A. be “bad cop”. I think this is a bad idea. Kids respect you for being a good teacher, not for being their friend. And if things are the other way – kids going behind your back and appealing to the T.A. because they know that he/she is easily manipulated – that has to be stopped (in a diplomatic way of course).
I’m flattered that you think I sound like a certified teacher, but, the truth is, I’m not. I was a private tutor for about 7 years in the U.S., but this is the first time I’ve had to control an entire class full of children. I chose my current school because of it’s training program and the friendliness of the local teachers when I was interviewed. I didn’t want to be thrown into a classroom without another person there to constantly observe me and tell me what I could do better. I sincerely believe that having a T.A. helped me to improve my classroom management skills much more quickly than I would have without one. Especially since I’m now working with an age group much lower than what I was accustomed to in the U.S. And, by sitting in on some of the T.A.s’ classes, I’ve gotten a lot of useful group teaching ideas as well.
This is a really great point that you made. My school has made it clear to the entire teaching staff that the foreign teacher is responsible for what happens in the classroom–good or bad. In order to have a good relationship with your T.A., it’s important to have clearly established and agreed upon roles in the classroom. If you don’t, the kids will feel nervous and confused; they can sense when the two teachers don’t get along well, and they won’t be sure who they should go to for an answer. Plus, you will feel frustrated if you believe your assistant is undermining you. You need to continuously talk about your expectations and plans for the class with each other and make sure you agree on how you will carry them out. [color=blue]And, if you have a disagreement, wait until the students are gone, or discuss it in the hall.[/color] The students need to know that you are working together and they will get the same answer (whether it be for a writing exercise or permission to play) from whichever teacher they ask. If I do have to correct the assistant on something in front of the class, I usually make it into my fault so she’s not embarrassed. For example, “Oh, I’m sorry! I forgot to tell you that I wanted them to hit their desks for this exercise.” Or, “Oh, I gave you the wrong copy of the answers! Here’s the real one!” We try to use these times to teach the kids that it’s okay to make mistakes–even adults make them sometimes!
Again, a good working relationship with your T.A. is all about understanding each other’s expectations. If you feel your T.A. is too lenient, then you need to tell her that and why you think it’s important for her to be more stringent. But, keep an open mind: sometimes the T.A. can have very good reasons for being a bit less strict. Some “bad” behaviors that demand correction in the States, are not deemed so worthy of immediate correction here. And, it’s possible that your expectations for children at that age or level of study are too high.
As with everything in life, the Middle Path is usually best. Be presidential, rather than dictatorial, when working with an assistant.
[quote=“Persephone”]If I do have to correct the assistant on something in front of the class, I usually make it into my fault so she’s not embarrassed. For example, “Oh, I’m sorry! I forgot to tell you that I wanted them to hit their desks for this exercise.” Or, “Oh, I gave you the wrong copy of the answers! Here’s the real one!” We try to use these times to teach the kids that it’s okay to make mistakes–even adults make them sometimes![/quote]That’s a really good way of handling things.
Again, a good working relationship with your T.A. is all about understanding each other’s expectations. If you feel your T.A. is too lenient, then you need to tell her that and why you think it’s important for her to be more stringent. But, keep an open mind: sometimes the T.A. can have very good reasons for being a bit less strict. Some “bad” behaviors that demand correction in the States, are not deemed so worthy of immediate correction here. And, it’s possible that your expectations for children at that age or level of study are too high.[/quote]I just really wrote the second scenario – T.A. being too lenient – as a balance to the first one. Some other teachers I knew would occasionally complain about a T.A. being too soft, or not really doing much with the kids. But I guess that was really a case of the teacher needing to communicate expectations, as you say.
I don’t think I ever had a T.A. who I felt was too lenient overall. Occasionally when there was a new T.A. I’d come in after a break and find that the kids were too rowdy. In that case, I’d just mention to her that it was quite OK to be a bit firm with the kids. I’d also let the kids know that she and I would communicate fully about any misbehaviour!
[quote=“Persephone”]As with everything in life, the Middle Path is usually best. Be presidential, rather than dictatorial, when working with an assistant.[/quote]Right. Telling T.A.s what they must do doesn’t work at all. Much better all round to concentrate on good teamwork.
Persephone - your school sounds great. Did you interview at a few before chosing that one?
I was getting desperate, and this is the first school that seemed friendly, and were willing to give me a chance with very little experience… That plus Im not the typical ‘young, dumb and pretty’ stereotype that most Buxibans prefer
Im not going to get a TA during this contract, but I will definitely ask at my future interviews if one is provided. Maybe by that time, my mandarin ability will be good enough to solve a lot of my problems…
Actually after posting this thread today, I had a really good afternoon of classes. I guess you just cant pick what days will be good or bad…
But one thing I have noticed, if I am not feeling 100% confident, the little rascals can SMELL IT! or something… and the whole lesson is an uphill battle with crowd control. On the days that I am feeling centred, have a good lesson plan ready and am happy - the classes usually go smoothly
Another thing - my school has provided zero training and I have been here two months. The excuse at first was ‘we are too busy, the new year has just begun’. And this became ‘We can provide training but it is unpaid, and will mess up our rostering’
I sat in on 2 classes that one of my colleagues has, and that helped a lot. So far most of my skills have come from trial and error, creativity and reading stuff online
I loved my TA’s at my former school. We worked together as a team and they helped reinforce our classroom expectations. They were very creative and had wonderful ideas for art projects. I even got to teach the son of my first TA. He used to do the “if Dad says no, ask Mom” routine when he wanted to do something and didn’t like the answer he got, except he would go through me first, the TA who was new who would give him the same answer, and then the TA who was close friends with his mom (who also gave the same answer) before running out the classroom to his mother’s classroom and asking her. Mom would then lead him back to class and tell him that he needed to listen to his teachers.
It was wonderful having another set of eyes on the little ones, especially when there were more than 20 of them in the room. For the buxiban classes, we shared a TA who would help us with photocopies and getting art and cooking materials for our classes.
At my current school, I had a TA who sat with my ADD kid who barely spoke English and helped translate things and help him maintain control over himself. Then I started teaching older kids and my current TA mainly sits in my classroom doing their own English homework or reading the comic books from my bookshelves rather than doing the observations they are supposed to be doing.
I don’t really need a TA for my classes as I am pretty independent in my classroom prep and my classroom management plan is strong enough that I have no actual behavior issues (the only one issue being some students not doing their homework, and it’s only an issue to me if they are not doing well in class), but I do miss the sincere involvement that my previous TAs showed to the children.