Schools hire teacher aides to perform a variety of tasks in the classroom. Some teaching assistants work closely with individual students, often with special-needs children. Other educational paraprofessionals work with small groups of students to reinforce the teacher’s daily lessons. Teacher aides work in all grade levels of the school system.
Each state has specific requirements for teacher aides. Any school that receives federal Title I funding must hire teacher aides with at least 60 hours of college credit or an associate’s degree. These paraprofessionals must also pass an exam. Aides working with special-needs students might have to pass a separate skills test. College courses in childhood education, child development and psychology can help to prepare a teacher aide for the job. Once hired, the paraprofessional must also undergo any other professional training required by the local school district.
The teacher aide performs tasks assigned to her by the school’s administration and works closely with her assigned teacher. She might prepare copies of papers for children, grade homework and tests, record grades, and perform routine administrative tasks in the classroom. During the day, the teacher aide might work with students in small groups or individually. To teach her students effectively, the teacher aide must be knowledgeable of the subject matter. She might attend special classes with her assigned students, such as music or art. The paraprofessional helps to maintain classroom discipline, especially if the teacher leaves the room. Schools sometimes assign lunchroom, hall and bus duty to teacher aides along with their regular classroom assignments.
Teacher aides work closely with students and the classroom teacher, so they need good communication skills. These communication skills also come into play as the aide interacts with school administrators, staff members and parents. The aide must also be able to deliver the teacher’s instructions to the students in such a way that the children understand. In some cases, the paraprofessional might actually deliver a portion of the lesson, so she needs the ability to plan and teach in a cohesive sequence. Students don’t always understand the concepts in the daily lesson on the first or even the second try. The teacher aide must be patient as she works with students, and must continue to work with them until they understand and retain the information in the lesson.
Salary and Job Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average annual salary of a teacher assistant was $23,220 in 2010. Depending on the school schedule, the teacher aide might work only during the school year, or she might also work during summer school. The number of jobs for teacher aides should grow by 15 percent by 2020, which compares to a projected average growth of 14 percent for all U.S. jobs. Schools with growing populations and high numbers of special education students will have the most demand for aides.