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  (#1 (permalink)) Old
Elle_94 Offline
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Unhappy I'm a teaching assistant - but a terrible one. - June 19th 2017, 01:47 AM

Hi guys.

So I'm 19 and I'm currently studying for a degree in English at university. I've always wanted to be a teacher as I'm passionate about education and equality, and my plan has always been to complete my degree and then either do a pgce or teach first course to get into the profession. However, I knew I'd need some experience as well as a good degree to get onto one of those things, so when a job opportunity to support students at local high schools with their academic work on a part time basis came up I jumped at it. I was shocked, but I got the position. I had no experience in working with children at the time and I had no training either. I thought the service would take this into account and offer me some form of support, but I was offered nothing. I was let loose in a school and had to just work things out for myself.

The problem is now that every single time I go to work I'm dreading it. I enjoy helping the students with tasks, explaining things to them, and building relationships with them. But hardly any of the students respect me. In fact, they make a concious effort to humiliate me and upset me. They never listen to me. If I ask them to do or to stop doing something they just refuse, or act like I'm not even there. Some of them even call me names. A lot of the students I work with make it very clear to me that they don't want me there. For example, when a student asked if I was going to be in their next class and I said no, he responded "good." There is also one student who seems to particularly enjoy hiding my bag from me and moving my things around the classroom.

It's so embarrassing. I'm basically getting bullied by twelve year olds. I'm absolutely pathetic and I'm good at absolutely nothing. I have no control and no authority and all the kids hate me. I literally cannot do anything but write essays. I've underperformed in literally every job I've ever had. I'm getting nowhere in life. I just want to give up. I'm so terribly ashamed of this post but it's the truth.

Thank you for reading.

Last edited by Elle_94; June 19th 2017 at 01:49 AM. Reason: Spelling error
  (#2 (permalink)) Old
Everglow. Offline
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Re: I'm a teaching assistant - but a terrible one. - June 19th 2017, 10:26 AM


I'm sorry to hear that this job is making you so upset. I remember when I was in secondary school, we had this one supply teacher who everyone humiliated and made feel horrible. Looking back on it now, people were really harsh towards her. They would lie about things so that she felt like she had missed the end of lesson and had to let them go. They would say things about her appearance and accent (she was Polish, and children are really mean). There was another teacher whose teaching methods were perhaps unusual to a lot of us, and because he was unusual, this made him a target too. He was a nice man, but there was one lesson where unfortunately my whole class essentially took over the lesson and ran him out of the classroom, to the point where the head teacher had to come by and we all had to write statements.

The point I'm trying to make it, kids are mean. It might not be you as such, but the fact that there is a new member of staff who has supposed authority over them, and they just don't like it. You're only 19, which means you're not much older than them either, which again means that they think it is ok to hurt and tease you because, perhaps, they'll break you. Don't let them. It's ok to tell them off (if you are allowed to do this in your role), and again, if you're allowed, hand out detentions or punishments if it gets to that point. You could also let the class teacher know of what is happening so that they can hand out appropriate punishments if that is something you're not able to do.

You're doing a good thing by helping these kids. The support staff at my school were always excellent and in some ways better than the teachers because they were there to care for the students not just achieve certain grades. Try bonding with the students in other ways too. Have a laugh with them too, when they aren't treating you badly, and if there are certain ones you get on with really well, don't let the others affect how you respond to them. It's a lot easier said than done, I know, but don't let a few mean teenagers take away the joy you find in education. At this age, many kids will try an get away with as much as they can.

A paradox:
The things you donít need to liveó
books, art, cinema, wine, and so onó
are the things you need to live

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  (#3 (permalink)) Old
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Re: I'm a teaching assistant - but a terrible one. - June 19th 2017, 11:16 AM

Hey there,

first of, teaching has to be learned like everything else. So if you've never done it before it's normal that maybe things are not going perfect right away. But don't let that discourage you You can learn from this and get better and I'm sure you'll become an amazing teacher one day!

Also like Hollie already said, kids are mean. It's nothing against you, it's simply them being kids. Most people didn't like going to school when they were young and a new person is just another adult trying to controll them and "ruin their time" with usless studying.

I think whats important to keeping mind is, that as a teacher (or teaching asistant) the students don't have to like you and many won't like you. There are only a few who can pull of being liked by the students and still keep respect and authority.
Not saying you should be mean to them, but don't hesitate to hand punishment or detention (if your allowed) or talk with other teachers to see, what other options you have.
It's the only way the will learn, that behaving badly has negativ consequences for them. Everytime, not only with a certain teacher.

Once word got around, that there will be punishment if they behave badly you should atleast regain some control over them. Enough that you will be able to at least work with them.
Authority on the other hand is something that often has to be learned. Especially if your young. Most important is to appear self confident and not let them now your insecure about something. We have a teaching assistant like that at university and she gets picked on and ignored by most people in my course.

And really, there's no need to be ashamed. Your 19, you've never taught before. There's no way you could know all that. Here we have a saying, that no master ever fell from the sky, which basicly means, noone ever was born perfectly skilled for something. Everyone has to learn and develop.
But you know the good thing? Since you started inexperienced you can only get better and better at the job

It's ok to give in to an urge or make a mistake. You are only human and we all have our flaws. We all have our weak moments and we all make mistakes. Thats what makes us human.
Thats what makes us unique and beautiful

Courage isn't always a loud roar. Sometimes it is a quiet whisper at the end of a day saying: Tomorrow I will try it again!

  (#4 (permalink)) Old
Celyn Offline
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Re: I'm a teaching assistant - but a terrible one. - June 19th 2017, 12:26 PM

Hey there,

I admire your plan on completing your English degree to then go on to the PGCE or Teach First! It's always lovely to see people interested and passionate about teaching!

It is definitely beneficial to get experience and so even without prior experience working with children, it was great that you jumped at the opportunity to help students on a part time basis at local high schools. It's also understandable that you would've expected the service to take your situation into consideration and offer you support. Do they offer any training in general? Perhaps you can ask about 'Team Teach' or other behavioural management courses that may know about? These courses are often 1-2 days long and aim to help you develop techniques for dealing with difficult behaviour. If the service doesn't offer anything, then perhaps you can let the teachers know in advance that you would like support with dealing with behaviour given that you are inexperienced. Teachers understand what it's like to be new, nervous and not know how to handle situations so try to find someone at the school that you can talk to as well.

Being a teaching assistant at high school and trying to gain the respect of students can be difficult. At primary school, children accept you as an adult and another 'teacher'. But at high school, young people become more aware that you're not the teacher, and so they may feel that you can't do much about their behaviour. Which can cause them to play up, and make life miserable for you. I do agree with Hollie that it is okay to tell the students off, and if possible, give detentions. If not, it's always best to tell the teacher what's going on and suggest detentions for the behaviour. Being a teaching assistant not only means working with students but also with the teacher so it's good to communicate what is going on as the teacher may be unaware otherwise and it's not fair on you to suffer either. As for your bag, is it possible to keep it in the staffroom? If not, perhaps keep it near the teacher's bag which may be a deterrent for the student that tries to move your bag around.

You are not pathetic at all. As it's been said, you are 19 and even though you are in university, you are only a few years older than those you are helping. Kids can be cruel at times, and teaching is often an undervalued and under-recognised position, but that doesn't mean that you are worthless or no good. Remind yourself that most often those that put you down, are doing it to make themselves feel better and so it's not really about you, but them. For example, those you are helping may feel embarrassed that they might need extra support, so to combat this may take things out on you. It doesn't make it right, but can be one way at looking at problem behaviour and trying to understand where it may be coming from. I'm sure with time and the right support and training, you'll be a great teaching assistant and teacher!

Lastly, it's important to look after yourself. Dealing with difficult behaviour from people in general can be frustrating and off putting at times. Be sure to have balance of positive things in your life that make you feel good too!

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  (#5 (permalink)) Old
Elle_94 Offline
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Red face Re: I'm a teaching assistant - but a terrible one. - June 19th 2017, 01:08 PM

Thank you so much to all of you for the advice and support. I do feel ever so much better about things now and I will take into account what all of you have said. As I work for an agency as opposed to being employed by the actual school I actually don't have the power to give detentions and similar punishments. I think this had been part of the issue. I don't really have anything I can do to 'prove' my authority. But I think passing the informaton onto someone who can and suggesting they issue a punishment may be a good idea. I've just been frightened of looking weak to the kids, if I seem as though I'm relying on other members of staff. But it's got to be better than just letting them drive me away from some thing I have wanted to do for years. Thanks guys.
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