Instructional Assistants perform a variety of para-professional curriculum and instructional tasks to support teachers and other professional staff in a general or special education classroom or learning environment; and assists with the daily management of the students and classroom.
An instructional assistant teacher is a great opportunity for someone who wants to have the experience of being a teacher but not be a teacher or be in complete charge of a classroom. For example, a teacher will introduce new material to students, and an instructional assistant can help reinforce the lessons by working with students individually or in small groups. Instructional assistants can also give feedback to teachers about a student’s progress. They can grade tests and check homework as well. Instructional assistants don’t necessarily have to be in your typical classroom, it can be in the computer laboratories, playgrounds, libraries or lunchroom. Although, most instructional assistants work in elementary, middle, and high schools, others work in preschools, childcare centers or alternative schools. It can also be both public and private. They typically work up to 40 hours a week. Many instructional assistants work part-time.
The educational requirements to be an instructional assistant vary by school district and position. They range from a high school diploma to an associate degree. However, there are some important qualities that are essential to not only becoming one but to being a successful one. Communication skills and interpersonal skills are vital, beyond just being able to discuss with students and teachers, they need to empathize and have good working relationships with others. Students come from all different abilities and backgrounds that it can be challenging to teach or understand at times, but being patient is very important in situations like this. Also, instructional assistant teachers need to be ingenious and need to explain information to students in a way that meets each student’s needs.
I believe that taking initiative, communication, and using your resources are key to becoming an IA.
Some inspirational quotes from the two I.A’s I interviewed were:
“Take initiative, when you want something you just need to put yourself on radar.” – Simon Chang
“It isn’t always about what you know, but who you know.”- Scott Randall
“Communication is key in any relationship”- Simon Chang
Scott Randall (left) and Simon Chang (right) both Instructional Assistants of Mountain View Alternative School.