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Experiences of a Mature TA

04/10/16

I’m Rikki Martin (no, not the Latino singer – I’m the older, original holder of that name!), a Protocol Education Teaching Assistant. I thought a few observations and practical tips about my experiences to date might be of use to fellow TAs.

I’ve been working as a TA on a supply basis from the start of the current academic year and have encountered a range of schools in Sheffield, in more and less privileged parts of the city. The catchment areas may be quite different, but I’ve found that all children respond similarly if you show them warmth.

I don’t claim to be unique, but as a bearded, sixty-one year old man, I obviously look a bit different to what I assume to be the more usual younger, female TA. The children must think so, as some have been bold enough to touch my beard out of curiosity, or ask such questions as “are you old?” and “have you fought in a war?” I suppose the honest answer to the first is probably, but I haven’t been a soldier!

I’ve found that a few practical steps have helped me to be prepared to take up assignments:

  • Have a packed lunch and bottle of water ready to take with you (some schools will offer you a hot drink at break times, others will expect you to fend for yourself).
  • Rise early enough on days when you have made yourself available for work to ensure you have breakfast – you won’t know until you arrive at a given school when your lunch break might be, so you need to have an energy source to draw on to keep you going. I’ve been assigned lunch breaks as early as 11.30 and as late as 1.30.
  • Have your DBS certificate, satnav and anything else you need in a bag, so you can simply grab your bag rather than scramble about on the day to find what you need.
  • Take a pullover and/or coat with you, even if you set out on a warm morning; I’ve been caught out by a drop in temperature when on playground duty when I’ve badly wanted an extra layer.

The above is by no means a comprehensive list, but I hope it helps.

Have I enjoyed the work? Overall, definitely. I must say I prefer working with the children rather than undertaking administrative tasks (pencil sharpening and using a guillotine to trim paper doesn’t get the adrenalin pumping for long!). I’d rather help a child with their reading any day, but I accept all aspects of the role. Acting as amateur referee for lunch-time playground football is also rewarding and interesting!

That’s it for my first blog. I hope it’s been entertaining and useful.

Best of luck to fellow TAs out there!


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