What Teacher Assistants Do
Some teacher assistants work exclusively with special education students who attend traditional classes.
Teacher assistants work under a teacher’s supervision to give students additional attention and instruction.
Teacher assistants typically do the following:
- Reinforce lessons presented by teachers by reviewing material with students one-on-one or in small groups
- Enforce school and class rules to help teach students proper behavior
- Help teachers with recordkeeping, such as tracking attendance and calculating grades
- Help teachers prepare for lessons by getting materials ready or setting up equipment, such as computers
- Supervise students in class, between classes, during lunch and recess, and on field trips
Teacher assistants are also called teacher aides, instructional aides, paraprofessionals, and paraeducators.
Generally, teachers introduce new material to students, and teacher assistants help reinforce the lessons by working with individual students or small groups of students. For example, they may help students learn research skills by helping them find information for reports.
Teacher assistants sometimes help teachers by grading tests and checking homework.
Teachers may seek feedback from assistants to monitor students’ progress. Some teachers and teacher assistants meet regularly to discuss lesson plans and student development.
Some teacher assistants work only with special education students. These students often are mainstreamed (attend regular classes), and teacher assistants help them understand the material and adapt the information to their learning style.
With students who have more severe disabilities, assistants may work with them both in regular classes and in separate classes. Teacher assistants may help these students with basic needs, such as feeding or personal hygiene. With young adults, they may help students with disabilities learn skills necessary for them to find a job after graduation.
Some teacher assistants work in specific locations in the school. For example, some work in computer laboratories, teaching students how to use computers and helping them use software. Others work as recess or lunchroom attendants, supervising students during these times of the day.
Although most teacher assistants work in elementary, middle, and high schools, others work in preschools and other childcare centers. Often, one or two assistants work with a lead teacher to give the individual attention that young children need. They help with educational activities. They also supervise the children at play and help with feeding and other basic care.