You would think this topic is common sense. Even as I am writing this I feel like I’m teaching a mathematician that 1+1=2. Yet once again the public school system ceases to amaze me, as the conversation about getting rid of teaching assistants is persisting. What part of that sentence even makes sense? I would like to see those school officials spend a day in a classroom of 25 plus 6 year olds, with no help. How about just keep them alive, don’t even worry about teaching them (because guess what, that’s all you’ll have time for). Maybe I’m being over dramatic, but as the daughter of a Kindergarten teacher who has volunteered many hours in her classroom, I have witnessed first hand how incredible her assistant is for her.
One thing that made me feel better about this situation… never mind it made me feel worse… is that even in the UK they are experiencing an under appreciation of TA’s and the possibility of having them cut from classrooms. In this article, an author from the UK discusses just how important a TA is and emphasizes why getting rid of them will not only fail to solve budget issues but have a negative impact on the lives of students.
A large part (probably the largest) of the argument revolves around saving money by cutting TA’s. The first problem I have with this, as detailed in the article, how this will impact the children. Maybe these people don’t get it because all they see is a generic job description, but the roles of a TA’s go far beyond what you’ll find on a resume. Not only do they help students academically by providing more opportunity for one on one interactions, but they touch the lives of children is so many other ways. My mom’s assistant has training (this was also mentioned in the article) with special needs children, behavioral training, detainment training, emotional support training, and the list goes on. The point is, she is so much more than an “assistant,” as are most TA’s. They are a vital part of the classroom.
So the follow up argument for all of that tends to be “let’s hire more teachers.” Well I don’t have to say about this other than agreeing with the author of the article. That solution would cost more (teachers are paid more you know…). Then comes the “just increase class size” which brings me back to my earlier point about keeping dozens of young children alive for 8 hours a day, and oh yeah giving them a quality education. There is no way a teacher can provide the individual needs of each student, which being able to take care of her/him self as well. The mental health of teachers would plummet and burn out would increase. How is that getting the most of your money? Unless you consider subpar education and burnt out teachers a good use of funds.
The bottom line, we need teaching assistants. Not because the teacher isn’t good enough, not because they need an extra baby sitter, and not because we hate saving money. Teaching assistants are well qualified, passionate members of the school system who can help one student with his math, guide another student with her sentence structure, talk with a group of students having an argument, and emotionally support a student who’s only safe space are the four walls of that classroom. Teaching assistants are not merely assistants, they are one of the most important aspects of a classroom.