Updated: Feb 5, 2020
So, what can you expect when you become a Special Needs assistant? Here we explore a day in the life of a teaching assistant in school exclusively for children with special needs.
To start with, every day is different. It’s a bit of a cliché but when working with multiple children who can have complex disabilities and behavioural or learning challenges, it makes it impossible to make any generalisations as every pupil and every day is very different. But to give you a very topline view of what a typical day structure might look like for a teaching assistant, this article is based on interviews with two Special Needs assistants working in different schools in London.
The day will start around 8.30am before the students arrive, with a briefing session; a chance for the teachers and the teaching assistants in each classroom to get together and discuss what’s happening that day, update each others with any school news and bring up any particular students or situations that need discussing. In schools that only take students with special needs, the ratio between teaching assistants and pupils is high: maybe 11 pupils in a class with one teacher and three teaching assistants.
The students will follow a structured curriculum led by the teacher and we are there to support the students as they follow the day’s lessons be that English, maths, science or PE; even the breaks and lunchtime when we usually grab a bite in the canteen.
Depending on the needs of the particular child, we might spend an hour or longer with them at a time, but it really depends on the individual children and their needs. Some very challenging behaviour might require more than one of us to a child until they are calmed down for example. But spending all that time with them helps us get to know really help and build their trust.
School is out at 3.30pm but we hang around for a quick debrief on the day with the other teaching assistants and the teacher and start looking forward to tomorrow. We tend to leave about 4-4.30pm in the afternoon. But once a week, we all stay late for a planning session to discuss the upcoming week and maybe prepare any required materials for the class.
It can be a tough job at times, with some students displaying very challenging behaviours that take patience and understanding to overcome, but the reward is huge. Starting the job is very daunting: walking into the school for the first time and not knowing what to expect can seem terrifying, but once you get to know the children, your colleagues and how things are done, they become almost like a family and is so much more than just a job.
The reward is getting to know each child, understanding how to calm them, understanding what motivates them to do their best and of course seeing progress. That is the heartwarming bit and makes every more difficult hour or day worth it. This is simply the best job in the world! You just don’t get these Monday blues because you know as soon as you get to school and see everyone, any worries will disappear.
The team at Inspiring Teaching are always there for support and will help with any questions or problems you may have.
So if this sounds like the sort of job that you, or someone you know, would love as much as these two Special Needs assistants and you fancy becoming an inspiring teacher yourself, please contact Callum and the team at Inspiring Teaching on 020 3773 6005.