Most school aides can be found in the classrooms of elementary, middle and secondary schools. They also work in preschools and child care, religious and community centers. Hired to provide instructional and clerical support to the lead teacher or facilitator of the center, they are also referred to as teacher assistants, instructional aides, paraprofessionals and para-educators.
Some school aides such as playground and lunchroom attendants are hired exclusively to supervise the students in nonacademic settings. All school aides provide supervision throughout the day at recess, break times, lunchtime, bus pickup and drop-off. The school aide may also accompany the teacher and students on field trips.
A school aide helps the lead teacher or facilitator deal with the daily mounds of paperwork. She record attendance records, check homework, mark assignments, record test marks, file and duplicate materials. In the elementary classroom, she prepares and dismantles the learning centers, puts up and takes down bulletin boards, stocks supplies and checks the audiovisual equipment. In the secondary classroom, she assists students with their projects by preparing the necessary equipment and supplies.
Under the direction and guidance of the lead teacher, the school aide provides individual and small-group instruction to the students by following the specifics outlined in each child's Individualized Education Plan (IEP). He may also participate in IEP planning sessions with parents, teachers and administrators. At the secondary level, a school aide often specializes in a subject area such as mathematics and science. He can be found in many computer labs helping the students with educational software programs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fastest growth in school enrollments will be among special education students and students for whom English is a second language. Many school aides will be hired to work primarily with special education students. They will help these students with feeding, grooming and general mobility. In some cases, school aides may be asked to provide health services that range from the most basic to more complex and invasive procedures. School aides must receive adequate training in first aid, emergency procedures and proper use of equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers and breathing apparatus before providing any health services. This training must be documented by a health professional and updated on a regular basis.