As I walked up to the school gates on my first day as a teaching assistant, I truly felt like it was my first day at school again. A new environment, new faces and lots I needed to learn, but this time I would be sitting in the staffroom. (Even typing that sounds strange!) I have had such a positive experience so far, with a really warm welcome from all of the teachers and so much enthusiasm from the children to learn English. Having said that, getting the most out of it still requires a little effort on your part! Therefore I have come up with 5 ways to ensure you are making the most of the experience and jumping in with two feet.
- PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE
The expression goes, ‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.’ This is something I have definitely struggled with in the past, finding another episode of my new favourite series much more enticing than sitting at a desk and doing my work for the following day. As a teaching assistant however, with your time spent at the school limited, it is essential to do some preparation. Whether that be learning the topic specific vocabulary or learning a whiteboard game, it will not only be a more valuable class for the children but for you as well.
- SAY YES TO THINGS
On my second day at the school, two of the younger teachers asked me if I wanted to go for lunch with them. With a three hour (Yes, three hour!) lunch break, I was certainly tempted by the idea but was concerned that I wouldn’t have enough to contribute to conversation! I decided to go anyway and had such a nice time. We spoke mostly in Spanish, although at times they also wanted to practice their English. We talked about things that didn’t relate to the school and got to know each other more as friends than ‘work colleagues’. Now the next time the opportunity arises I won’t have any reservations and in turn this will hopefully improve my Spanish no end!
- BE PUNCTUAL
Avoid walking into school ten minutes late for your class. It avoids any sort of disruption and also means you instead have fifteen minutes or so to sit down with the other teachers, have a coffee and feel ready for your first lesson of the day!
- JOIN THE TEACHING ASSISTANT FACEBOOK GROUPS
I only found out about these a few weeks ago, even though they are easy to find, I just hadn’t thought about looking for them. Lots of information is posted everyday, from which bank has the best student deal to the quickest way of obtaining the dreaded NIE number. There is also information posted about Erasmus trips and events or suggestions for cheap places to hang out with friends.
- EMBRACE THE OPPORTUNITY
Unless you fancy a career in teaching, this may be the only time you experience what it’s like to work in a classroom and be the one standing up in front of lots of young people! It’s important to use this chance to try and inspire the children into wanting to learn. Working with a native English speaker will be one of the best opportunities they will have in school to learn English, so help them to enjoy it and in turn, I’m sure you will enjoy it too!