Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools

Teacher Assistant Handbook

  • 3.1 Job Function
    • 3.1.1 Part of a Collaborative Team
    • 3.1.2 Reinforcement of Skills
    • 3.1.3 Behavior Management
    • 3.1.4 Personal Care of Student
    • 3.1.5 Community Experience
    • 3.1.6 Communication

  • 3.2 Role of the Teacher Assistant

  • 3.3 Performance Expectations
    • 3.3.1 Suggested Code of Conduct
    • 3.3.2 Team Work
    • 3.3.3 Student Self Concept
    • 3.3.4 Student Advocacy
    • 3.3.5 Working with the Entire Staff
    • 3.3.6 Working with Outside Agencies
    • 3.3.7 Student Assessment
    • 3.3.8 Behavior Management
    • 3.3.9 Liability
    • 3.3.10 Abuse
    • 3.3.11

3.1 Job Function

Teacher Assistants work under the direction and guidance of professional staff.

3.1.1   Part of a Collaborative Team

The Teacher Assistant works within a cooperative, collaborative ďteamĒ concept under the direction and guidance of professional staff. The Teacher Assistant is an integral part of the school based team.

3.1.2   Reinforcement of Skills

The Teacher Assistant is directly responsible to the professional staff to reinforce the skills taught by the teacher and the overall objectives stated in the studentsí Personal Program Plan. This includes input regarding student Personal Program Plans and student evaluation. Teacher Assistants implement lesson plans and make adaptations to regular classroom lesson plans developed by professional staff.

3.1.3   Behavior Management

The Teacher Assistant assists the professional staff with behavior intervention strategies.

3.1.4   Personal Care of Student

The Teacher Assistant assists the professional staff by facilitating personal care for students with special needs when required. This includes toileting, medication, personal hygiene, and dressing. All personal care of students is to be carried out in accordance with the guidelines suggested in the Student Health and Safety Policies.

Please refer to Appendix B for the complete Student Health and Safety Policies.

3.1.5  Community Experience

The Teacher Assistant assists the professional staff by facilitating community experience for students with special needs when required. This includes field trips, work education, and life skills development. 3-1 If a student is injured during a community experience, the Teacher Assistant is not held liable. All liability is covered by the Saskatoon Catholic School System through insurance policies.

Although the Teacher Assistant is required to accompany students for community experience, the Teacher Assistant is not required to transport the student in a (the Teacher Assistant's) personal vehicle. The Teacher Assistant may use a personal vehicle if he or she wishes to (by mutual consent), and would be compensated on a per kilometer payment. Before agreeing to use a personal vehicle the Teacher Assistant is to be informed of the personal implications for insurance policies.

3.1.6   Communication

Communication between home and school is the direct responsibility of the professional staff. The Teacher Assistant assists in this process by providing information to the professional staff.

Communication among the members of the instructional team is also a concern. It is essential that there be a clear understanding of the Teacher Assistantís specific role within team communication. The school team must determine the specific tasks for which the Teacher Assistant will be responsible. It is essential that the Teacher Assistant understand the lines of authority within the school and the person to whom he/she is responsible.

3.2 Role of the Teacher Assistant

Various factors influence the specific responsibilities assigned to Teacher Assistants. These include the characteristics and personalities of teachers, Teacher Assistants and students, the interpersonal skills of teachers and Teacher Assistants, the skill level of the Teacher Assistants, and the physical environment of the classroom. Individual teachers may vary the responsibilities of the Teacher Assistant to enhance the program. The following list illustrates duties which could be assigned to the Teacher Assistant:

  • Assist individual students in performing activities initiated by the teacher.
  • Supervise children in the hallway, lunchroom, and playground.
  • Assist in monitoring supplementary work and independent study.
  • Reinforce learning in small groups or with individuals, while the teacher works with other students.
  • Provide assistance with individualized program materials.
  • Assist the teacher in observing, recording, and charting behaviour.
  • Assist the teacher with crisis problems and behavior management.
  • Assist in preparation/production of instructional materials and modifications.
  • Carry out instructional programs designed by the teacher.
  • Work with the teacher to develop classroom schedules.
  • Carry out tutoring activities designed by the teacher.
  • Assist the classroom teacher to involve the student with special needs in classroom and extra-curricular activities.
  • Assist in the observation and assessment of students as requested by the teacher/supervisor.
  • Maintain records relative to specific programming and student performance as requested by teacher/supervisor.
  • Assist in related duties which may be assigned because of specific needs (the maintenance and/or preparation of instructional and life skills materials, for example).
  • Participate in parent-teacher conferences and assist with parent communication on request.
  • Supervise and/or participate with students in community-based programming when requested.
  • Assist the teacher to provide program adjustments that are suitable to the studentís behavioral and emotional make-up.
  • Assist the teacher(s) in following tasks of effective behavioral management.
  • Perform occupational and physio-therapy exercises under the direction of professional staff.
  • Assist with student dressing and feeding.
  • Assist with sensory integration programming as outlined by the teacher.
  • Administer medication and chart its distribution.
  • Assist with toileting and toilet training programs.
  • Assist with a studentís daily hygiene.
  • Work directly with students in different settings where a teacher is not available at the site (work experience placement, for example).
  • Support students in their participation in activities in the community.
  • Support and train students in work placements.
  • Reinforce social and personal skills to ensure the successful inclusion of the student with special needs.
  • Attend professional development programs related to needs of students in the program.
  • Assist with communication development, under the direction of the teacher and/or Speech and Language Pathologist.

Instructional duties the Teacher Assistant should not perform:

  1. Be solely responsible for a classroom or a professional service.
  2. Be responsible for the diagnostic functions of the classroom.
  3. Be responsible for preparing lesson plans and initiating instruction.
  4. Be responsible for assigning grades to students.
  5. Be used as a substitute for certified teachers unless he or she possesses the appropriate teacher certificate and is hired as a substitute. The Teacher Assistant may be left alone in the classroom for short periods of time when the teacher is called away. The teacher, however, continues to maintain responsibility for the classroom.
  6. Assume full responsibility for supervising assemblies or field trips.

Non-Instructional duties the Teacher Assistant should not perform:

  1. Assume full responsibility for supervising and planning activities.
  2. Take children to clinic, dental, or medical appointments unless permission is granted by authorized personnel.
  3. Prescribe new educational activities and materials for children.
  4. Grade subjective or essay tests.
  5. Regulate pupil behavior by corporal punishment or similar means.

To further assist with the clarity of understanding each Teacher Assistantís specific assignment, it is highly recommended that each instructional team complete the Teacher Assistant Role Perception Activity. Please see Appendix C.

3.3 Performance Expectations

3.3.1   Suggested Code of Conduct
  1. With regard to accepting responsibilities, the Teacher Assistant is advised to:
    • Engage only in non-instructional and instructional activities to which they are assigned. Some tasks require specific training. Before a Teacher Assistant is assigned to such tasks the specific training must be provided.
    • Communicate progress or concerns about students to parents only if directed to do so by the teacher(s) or supervisor.
    • Refer concerns expressed by parents, students, or others to teacher(s) or supervisor. 3-4
    • Recognize that the supervisor has the ultimate responsibility for the instruction and behavior management of children and follow the directions prescribed by him/her.
  2. With regard to relationships with student and parents the Teacher Assistant is advised to:
    • Discuss a childís progress, limitations, and/or educational program only with the supervising teacher in the appropriate setting. If contacted directly by a parent the Teacher Assistant should refer the parent to the teacher or principal.
    • Discuss school problems and confidential matters only with appropriate personnel, and only when students are not present.
    • Refrain from engaging in discriminatory practices based on a studentís handicap, race, sex, cultural background or religion.
    • Respect the dignity, privacy, and individuality of all students, parents, and staff members.
    • Present themself as a positive adult role model.
  3. With regard to relationships with teachers, the Teacher Assistant is advised to:
    • Recognize the role of the teacher as supervisor.
    • Express differences of opinion only when students are not present.
    • Establish communication and a positive relationship with the teacher.
    • Discuss concerns about the teacher or teaching methods directly with the teacher.
    • Discuss concerns only with the teacherís supervisor if issues are not resolved.
    • Avoid discussing teacher problems with students, other teachers, Teacher Assistants or parents.
  4. With regard to the relationship with the school, the Teacher Assistant is advised to:
    • Accept a personal responsibility for continued skill improvement.
    • Become familiar with school policies and procedures.
    • Represent the school and its programs in a positive manner.
    • Utilize proper grievance procedures when problems cannot be resolved.
    • Refrain from:
      1. discussing school problems and confidential matters, including personalities, outside of school circles;
      2. discussing administrative, interdepartmental and interschool problems in the presence of pupils; and
      3. discussing problems with those who cannot assist in the solution.
3.3.2   Team Work

Teacher Assistants are allocated to schools or programs, not to students. While some Teacher Assistants may be scheduled to work with specific students, they are required to work where the school administrator(s), or his or her designate, assigns them. In school situations where there are particularly challenging students and more than one Teacher Assistant is assigned to a program, it is expected that they will share in the provision of services for each student.

The Teacher Assistant works as part of a collaborative team, and must accept the responsibility of a positive team member. All special education programming is developed by the classroom or Learning Assistance Teacher; however, parents, Teacher Assistants and other involved personnel shall be given the opportunity to have input into the program. Teacher Assistants are not to be responsible for devising or changing a program for students. They assist teachers in providing education service.

3.3.3   Student Self Concept

All students have one important common need, the need to earn approval and encouragement. It is necessary to establish educational programs in such a way that students may experience success at small, sequential tasks. In order that students recognize this growth, it is necessary that they be praised. As the student gains self-confidence, so will she/he gain as a learner.

It is often difficult for the teacher to notice the little successes of each student. The Teacher Assistant can provide an invaluable service by providing encouragement and praise, and reinforcing all learning.

3.3.4   Student Advocacy
ďA little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idleĒ. --Kahil Gibran

The Teacher Assistant should see herself/himself as an advocate for the rights of all students, and, in particular, those students with disabilities. The rights of all students should be promoted. All students have the right to an appropriate education and equality of benefit from the school division. All students have the right to a fair assessment. Students with disabilities have the right to Personal Program Plans and the right to an inclusive placement in school.

It is generally held that the ideal for each student is to be able to self-advocate and handle most life situations as independently as possible. Students with disabilities, however, may benefit from assistance as they try to become independent. Such help may come from persons (Teachers and Teacher Assistants, for example) who may act as advocates and speak out on their behalf.

Should a Teacher Assistant think that a particular student is being denied her/his due rights as a student in Saskatoon Catholic Schools, the Teacher Assistant should approach her/his supervisor in this regard.

3.3.5   Working with the Entire Staff

Although Teacher Assistants may work with only a few classroom teachers and students, they are encouraged to get to know the entire school staff. The Teacher Assistant is also encouraged to view the school staff as a larger unified team and to interact, at some point, with each staff member, if only informally through staff functions. There are many benefits to being part of a unified staff.

3.3.6   Working with Outside Agencies

Many students with special needs require the school to liaise with outside agencies (for example, The Alvin Buckwold Child Development Centre, The Royal University Hospital, Social Services, and Radius Tutoring among many others). Although the Teacher Assistant should be aware of which outside agencies are involved with their students, it is the Teacherís responsibility to make contact with the particular agency and conduct the formal communication.

3.3.7   Student Assessment

The formal assessment of each student is the responsibility of the teacher. It is often the Teacher Assistant who works most closely with the student with special needs, however, and the valuable knowledge gained through this relationship is invaluable. Teacher Assistants should, indeed, be part of the assessment process, and assist the teacher with gathering the necessary information. Each Teacher should discuss with his or her Teacher Assistants a plan for student assessment, and precisely how the data will be gathered. Please see Appendix D for possible assessment methods.

3.3.8   Behavior Management

Many students with special needs require an effective plan for behavior management. It is the Saskatoon Catholic School Divisionís practice that all behavior management be carried out in a non-aversive manner that respects the rights and personhood of the student. Formation of the behavior management plan is the responsibility of the classroom teacher. It is recommended that the behavior plan be formed through a collaborative problem solving process. All who are involved with the studentís program should take part in developing the behavior plan. The Teacher Assistant, because of the usual close working relationship with his or her students, is usually in a position to offer valuable knowledge.

Once the behavior plan has been completed, it is the Teacher Assistantís responsibility to interact with students according to the process outlined in the behavior plan. All behavior plans should be given an appropriate chance to succeed. Deviation from the prescribed plan typically results in disjointed, inconsistent and, ultimately, ineffective behavior management.

It is to the Teacher Assistantís advantage to have formal training in non-aversive behavior management (Non Violent Crisis Intervention Training). The Saskatoon Catholic School Division regularly offers training in the principles and methods of non-aversive crisis management. This is a very practical and effective workshop, and highly recommended.

3.3.9   Liability

If a student is injured while under the care of a Teacher Assistant during an in-school or community experience, the Teacher Assistant will not be held liable for the injury. All liability is covered through the Saskatoon Catholic School Divisionís insurance policies.

3.3.10   Abuse

A close working and trust relationship often develops between a Teacher Assistant and student. Because of this trust a student may disclose information regarding abuse, sexual, physical, or otherwise. The Teacher Assistant should make herself/himself aware of the Abuse Protocol that is followed by employees of the Saskatoon Catholic School System. This protocol is available through the school Principal.

The Teacher Assistant should also take care to not place herself/himself in situations were she/he could be falsely accused of abuse. It is recommended that the Teacher Assistant discuss with her/his supervisor and, if necessary, the parents any concerns she/he has regarding this issue.

3.3.11   Student Independence

Teacher Assistants must guard against the tendency to perform tasks for the student that the student is able to do for herself/himself. It must be understood that independence is a necessary prerequisite to eventual self determination and self advocacy.

It is necessary to allow the student to persevere in a task if the student is to be successful and gain the self-esteem and feeling of independence which this success brings.

The student, however, must not be allowed to experience prolonged and repeated frustration. Should this happen, it may be necessary to look at partial participation, peer coaching or restructuring the task.

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