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What Does a Teaching Assistant Do?

A teaching assistant might give individualized attention to certain students.
Teaching assistants sometimes teach lessons.
Grading papers may be one responsibility of a teaching assistant.
A teaching assistant may help students with academics and behavior.
Teacher assistants may help set up and supervise field trips.
Most teaching assistants have at least some familiarity with different educational methods and theories.
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  • Written By: Elle Jay
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2014
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A teaching assistant helps teachers and students. Teaching assistant jobs can be found at all educational levels, from preschool to the upper echelon of colleges and universities. Instructional and academic duties are a large part of many such positions, but a teaching assistant job description can vary depending on the specific job. Administrative duties, such as keeping records and filing, may also fall under the realm of the teaching assistant.

Preschool teaching assistants often help with supervision of the students and may play a small role in instruction since there is less teaching time at this level. Lesson plans for preschoolers involve a lot of hands-on work, so the assistant may be asked to prepare the classroom for special projects or clean up after work is finished. Assisting a preschool teacher may also involve taking care of the students, since they are younger and require continuous supervision.

The older students in elementary and high school need less supervision, although teaching assistant jobs in some schools still involve monitoring hallways, classrooms, athletic fields, libraries, and study halls. Teaching assistants may also be asked to attend field trips in s supervisory capacity. Assistants at higher educational levels might assist with teaching, but they will usually follow the lesson plan or curriculum specified by the teacher. College students majoring in education frequently work as teaching assistants in lower grades as part of a degree program.

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College- or university-level teaching aides are often called TAs, and they can assist professors and teachers in a variety of ways. Sometimes a TA will teach a class or be responsible for a study group that is part of the class. TAs frequently grade tests and assignments and may work one-on-one with students as tutors or on special projects. Many science classes require labs, where the TA can supervise experiments and run the lab.

It is estimated that approximately half of all teaching aide positions are part time. This type of job is attractive to parents, because they can work while their children are in school and have time off during the summer when the kids are home. Many teaching assistants are college students studying for a degree in education. Many master’s degree candidates work as a TA in their major, teaching first-year students in entry-level college courses.

Although some college is usually desired, a high school diploma may be the minimum requirement for a teaching assistant position. An associate’s degree may be a prerequisite for some jobs. Most positions in education will require applicants to undergo a background check before being hired. While it is not necessary, fluency in a foreign language may be helpful for someone interested in a teaching assistant position.

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