When I look back at all the resources, the programs, and the trainings that helped me in my years teaching full time with 5 preps, one of the biggest game-changers was having a high school T.A. Being a teacher is HARD, and many of us have very limited resources. But one thing high school teachers do NOT have a short supply of is HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS. Why not use them to our advantage in a way that benefits both us AND them? I want to share with you everything you need to know about having a high school T.A. program and how much easier your life can be with it!
So, what is a T.A.?
A T.A. is simply a teacher’s aide. This is a student that will have a class period in their daily schedule where they are your assistant for that entire period. They can do any tasks you deem helpful, and any remaining time in the class period can be used to work on homework or study.
I first heard about being a high school T.A. back when I was in high school – about a century ago! I was actually a T.A. for my favorite math teacher. I made her copies, helped set up math manipulatives, and graded multiple-choice tests anonymously.
In my third year teaching high school, I actually got my own teacher’s aide, and ended up having one every year for four years after that! I cannot tell you enough how helpful it was to know that one period a day I would have an extra set of hands – especially since I only had 50-minutes of planning every day and 5 preps. I needed all the help I could get!
There are a LOT of different ways a high school T.A. program could be set up at your school. It can be done formally or entirely informally!
From my experience, when set up as a formal T.A. program, it is treated as a 0-credit elective for the students on their schedule and is essentially like them having a study hall (T.A.s can use any remaining class time with you to study or work on assignments for another class.) Students request to be a T.A. for a specific teacher and if a teacher has multiple applicants, they can then select from those applications. The student’s school counselor adds it to their schedule like they would any elective normally.
Who would want to even be a high school T.A.??
These can be students that have an interest in becoming a teacher one day and want to see what it is like behind the scenes. It could also be an AP student that wants a little break in their schedule. Either way, you get them once a day and they can help you with anything and everything.
In my experience, becoming a T.A. actually grew to be an honor and a privilege – because there were only so many teachers in the school. The amount of total T.A.s is actually limited! There are so many ways students benefit from having the T.A. period. Here are just a few:
- They get a period that feels like a break in their schedule (an entire class they don’t have to do homework for or study for!!)
- They have an opportunity to build a close relationship with a teacher.
- This relationship can lead to that teacher writing a really detailed and specific recommendation for future jobs and college applications.
- They can earn volunteer hours during school (if they aren’t also earning credit hours for the course – more on that in a bit).
- They have a great resume booster – especially if they are interested in a career in education!
What tasks can a T.A. actually do?
There are SO MANY THINGS you can use a T.A. for that will make your life easier. Here is a list of a few tasks I have used mine for:
- Making copies of my student packets – basically everything but tests! If you have a T.A. you should basically never be seeing the copy room again!!
- Setting up labs
- Cleaning up labs
- Updating my class website – where I wrote a post every day tracking our agenda for parents and absent students
- Testing out labs and activities I found to use in class – if there weren’t safety concerns, of course!
- Digitizing resources – I can humbly say that my students know 23948230948234x more about technology than I do. I guarantee they could digitize a resource for me in 1/10th of the time it would take me!!
- Organizing your classroom and sorting through supplies
- Taking inventory of the chemical supply room
- Helping to provide support for students during class – this works if the T.A. is strong in the subject material, like when I had an old AP Bio student as a T.A. during my Biology 1 class
- Helping my coworkers – oftentimes one of us would loan out our T.A. to another teacher who didn’t have one and needed help during that period.
What if we don’t have anything like this at our school?
If you don’t have a formal program at your school, that’s okay!! First, I definitely recommend reaching out to your admin and/or the school counseling department to see if one can get started! Let them see all the different ways this can benefit teachers AND students. Even if you think it will be a definite no, go ahead and ask anyway. This is a FREE way your administration can provide support to their tired and overworked teachers. You may be surprised how they respond!
What if my admin won’t set up a T.A. program?
If your admin doesn’t think this is a good fit for your school, see if you can informally get a T.A. Search for a student who is:
- Looking for volunteer hours, or
- Wants to become a teacher
Ask if they would be willing to stay after one or two days a week (or come early in the morning if that works!) to help you. You can keep track of their volunteer hours for community service and they can put it on their resume! A lot of clubs and organizations like National Honor Society require community service hours, and this is a great opportunity for students to give back within their own school! It is also a great way for a student to form a close relationship with a teacher. I’ve written letters of recommendation for all my aides over the years as I’ve gotten to know them so well!
Do you have a formal T.A. program at your school? Have you set up an informal T.A. for yourself? How has it worked? I’d LOVE to hear from you! Shoot me a message here.