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What to Expect in Your First Week as a Teaching Assistant


Teaching assistants have a valuable role within a classroom and overall school environment, as they help teachers with an ever-increasing workload and support pupils in their learning and development. Their importance is highlighted by the number of full-time teaching assistants more than trebling since the year 2000 (University of Buckingham).

Starting a job as a teaching assistant can be exciting but also daunting and overwhelming for new starters. They will have lots of information and meet many colleagues and pupils during their first week. This blog post aims to ease the transition by offering insights into the typical activities, responsibilities, and challenges encountered during the initial days.

What to Expect in Your First Week as a Teaching Assistant

Orientation and Onboarding

Congratulations! You have landed your teaching assistant job, and your first day has arrived.  If you are feeling nervous or overwhelmed, do not worry; it is completely normal when you are starting a new job. It is also an exciting time. Look at it as a new chapter in your career and also life.

So, what can you anticipate when you walk through the school doors on your first day? You will likely have been given instructions in a letter or email about what you should bring, where you need to go and who you will meet on arrival. It is important to be punctual, smart, enthusiastic and really show your passion.

Your new employer will have orientation and onboarding processes to help you through your first day, first week and beyond. Some organisations use orientation and onboarding interchangeably, but there are differences.


  • It is also known as an induction and typically occurs on your first day (a one-time event). However, some organisations can have a week-long induction process.
  • It is a part of the onboarding process, which welcomes you to the organisation.
  • It will provide you with an introduction to the school’s values, vision, mission, ethos and culture.
  • It can take place in a classroom, office and even online.
  • They will provide you with general organisational information, such as policies and procedures, e.g. health and safety, dress code, benefits, attendance, holidays, etc.

It is important as it:

  • Can put you at ease and increase your confidence.
  • Helps you to understand what you can expect from the school and role and what they expect of you.
  • Allows you to ask any questions.
  • Lays the foundation for the onboarding process.


  • It usually occurs over many weeks but can take months, and even years, in some roles. It is an ongoing process where you will learn on the job.
  • It will give you tailored information relating to your role as a teaching assistant and will prepare you for the job.
  • You may be introduced to your department, team and pupils, given starter projects, and have regular check-in meetings.
  • You will familiarise yourself with the company culture and integrate into the organisation.

It is important as it:

  • Makes you feel welcomed and valued, so you feel more comfortable in your new role, less stressed, engaged and are more likely to stay in your job.
  • Enables you to develop the knowledge and skills to understand your responsibilities and become confident in your role as a teaching assistant.
  • Helps you to become productive more quickly to assist your employer in meeting their goals.

What to expect during your orientation

Your orientation will be specific to the school/institution you are working for and its processes, but here are some general examples of what to expect:

  • Introductions – during your first day, you will meet various people within the organisation, e.g. headteachers, lead teachers, other teaching assistants and support staff, and will learn their names and roles.
  • Facility tours – you will likely have a tour to help you become familiar with your surroundings, where you will be working, and the facilities available.
  • Presentations – you may go to a classroom or office where you will sit through presentations on various topics, such as the organisation’s general policies and procedures, e.g. human resources, internet, health and safety, safeguarding, fire, etc. You may go through these online, depending on your employer.
  • Paperwork – you will usually meet someone from human resources to complete paperwork or online forms, e.g. starter forms, and they may also give you various literature, such as an employee handbook.
  • Meeting the lead teacher – you may sit down with the lead teacher you will be working closely with to discuss job expectations, the classroom, lessons and pupils.
  • Tools and equipment – they will give you the tools and equipment to do your job, e.g. computer login details and passwords and ID badge.
What to Expect in Your First Week as a Teaching Assistant

Meeting the Teaching Team

During the orientation process, you will meet the teaching team, which may include:

  • Headteachers.
  • Deputy headteachers.
  • Lead teachers.
  • Higher level teaching assistants (HLTAs).
  • Other teaching assistants.
  • Support staff, e.g. administrators.
  • Special educational needs coordinators (SENCOs).

As the week progresses, it is crucial to start to connect with your colleagues, which will build a strong foundation for future relationships. It is essential for the following reasons:

  • It makes for a happier workplace.
  • It improves collaboration.
  • It encourages open communication.
  • It fosters respect and trust.
  • It provides encouragement, support and acceptance.
  • It will give you the confidence to express your ideas.
  • It will increase productivity.
  • It will help meet common goals, i.e. give pupils the best education.

It can be hard to know how to introduce yourself and initiate conversations with your colleagues when you are new to a job. However, it is important to build positive relationships with them. Here are some tips:

  • Keep introductions simple, e.g. ‘Hi, my name is Sarah. I started on Monday, and I just wanted to introduce myself’.
  • Use ‘open’ and positive body language when you first meet them, i.e. no crossed arms, friendly handshakes, standing straight and good eye contact.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions, as this will show enthusiasm and eagerness. However, don’t bombard them.
  • Offer to help without being asked or asking for help to initiate a conversation about a particular task.
  • Use coffee or lunch breaks to get to know your colleagues, but avoid topics that could cause controversy, e.g. politics.
  • Use ‘ice breakers’ if you are really struggling to initiate conversations, e.g. ‘Are you going anywhere nice this year?’ or ‘I have two dogs; do you have any pets?’.
  • Stay engaged when listening to a colleague, i.e. no yawning or getting distracted while speaking.
  • Show that you are approachable, i.e. smiling, friendly and helpful.
  • Pay a compliment, but make sure it is sincere and nothing personal.
  • Make general observations to start conversations, e.g. ‘It’s getting so dark now the clocks have gone back’ or ‘It’s been raining for so long now, it would be nice to see some sun’.
  • Don’t immediately start throwing ideas at your colleagues, as it can come across as arrogant and a know-it-all.
What to Expect in Your First Week as a Teaching Assistant

Classroom Setup and Organisation

One of the tasks teaching assistants are often involved with is helping to set up the classroom for the academic year. It can be overwhelming, as there is much to consider and organise. However, the lead teacher will work closely with you and usually plan the layout.

Classroom setup can include:

  • Cleaning and planning the layout.
  • Arranging desks and seating.
  • Gathering information and materials for teachers to use in lessons.
  • Making resources for teachers and pupils to use in lessons.
  • Setting up equipment for lessons.
  • Creating specific areas, such as those for role play or reading.
  • Ensuring the classroom is clean, tidy and free from hazards.
  • Making displays of work created by pupils (e.g. artwork) and other materials, such as banners, signs, posters, timetables, etc.
  • Decorating the walls and ceilings, i.e. with themes.

To make the classroom optimal for learning, here are some tips on organising materials, resources and environments:

  • Liaise with other staff where required, e.g. cleaners to clean the room and caretakers to fix things.
  • Ensure the layout of the classroom allows for enough space to move freely.
  • Move furniture (tables and chairs) so that all pupils can see the teacher, each other and the whiteboard.
  • Remove any hazards, e.g. trailing cables and clutter. The Health and Safety Executive has a classroom checklist that you may find useful, and the link is here.
  • Ensure the teacher has everything they need to teach, such as stationary, storage, electrical equipment, books, etc.
  • Don’t overdo the displays and decorations, as clutter can hinder learning.
  • Put school supplies in designated storage areas and label them, e.g. books, paints, pencils, pens, rulers, glue sticks, chalk, paperclips, etc.
  • Label pupils’ drawers and exercise books.
  • Take a keepsake or mascot into the class, as it can start conversations with pupils.

Remember, setting up the classroom is not where it ends. It will develop over time as pupils put their stamp on it.

What to expect in your first week as a teaching assistant

Roles and Responsibilities

You will have many responsibilities as a teaching assistant, and what they are will depend on the school in which you work and the ages of the children you are working with. Your day-to-day responsibilities may change daily, but you may have to:

  • Help teachers prepare lesson materials.
  • Set up classrooms for lessons and tidy up before and after class.
  • Work with pupils to ensure they understand the lessons and activities.
  • Read to pupils and listen to them read.
  • Provide additional help to pupils with special needs or those who require extra support with their learning.
  • Help teachers manage challenging behaviour within the classroom and promote good behaviour.
  • Lead classes under the supervision of teachers.
  • Care for pupils who are injured, upset and unwell, including administering first aid where applicable.
  • Support other school activities, e.g. outings, sports events, breakfast and after-school clubs, revision sessions and playtime.
  • Attend meetings and participate in training.
  • Record pupils’ progress and development and report any issues to teachers.
  • Assist with assessing and marking pupils’ work.

Everyone has their specific role within the teaching team and will contribute in various ways while working together to achieve common goals. It is vital to understand the difference between your role and a teacher to help develop positive relationships and collaborate effectively.

Your role as a teaching assistant is to support teachers with their lessons and help pupils in their learning and development. You will be expected to follow instructions from the teacher but are not there to plan and teach lessons. However, it does not mean you cannot use your initiative or suggest improvements. It just means you will be taking direction from the teacher.

What to expect in your first week as a teaching assistant

Building Rapport with Pupils

Not only do teaching assistants need to build relationships with colleagues to be successful, but they must also build rapport with pupils. Rapport is being able to communicate and understand each other well.

One way to build rapport with pupils is by helping to create a positive, nurturing, safe and inclusive classroom environment, which means:

  • Ensuring all pupils can participate in lessons and activities, regardless of their backgrounds and abilities.
  • Supporting pupils who have barriers to learning, e.g. special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), so they have the same opportunities to reach their potential as other pupils.
  • Valuing the individual contributions and diversity each pupil brings.

If successful in creating an optimal environment, pupils will feel welcome, and respected and have a sense of belonging. It will help them to stay engaged and learn better, which is key for their academic, social and emotional development.

Some strategies you could adopt to build rapport with pupils are:

  • Let them know who you are – so that pupils can see you are human like them, with hobbies and a life outside of the school environment. Opening up to them and being yourself can establish trust and respect.
  • Ask them questions – to get to know pupils better and show them you are interested in understanding who they are and what they want to achieve.
  • Engage in active listening – to demonstrate to pupils that you are listening and not just hearing. Active listening means listening intently without disrupting, showing them you have understood what they are saying and are taking them seriously.
  • Be firm but fair (and also consistent) – to demonstrate to pupils that there are boundaries and expectations and any poor behaviour will be challenged positively and consistently. Also, if you say you are going to do something, it is important to do it, e.g., if you can’t answer a question and say you will get back to them, then you must.
  • Provide encouragement – to boost pupils’ confidence, engagement and motivation. If they do well, give praise. If they are struggling with something or have not achieved a goal, support and encourage them to find ways to improve.
  • Provide help and support – to enhance pupils learning and development. They are more likely to approach you if you are friendly and approachable and look like you want to help them.
  • Have fun – to engage pupils and increase their motivation to learn. They can learn better if the environment and activities are fun and engaging and also when they are around positive and enthusiastic influencers.

It is important to note that building rapport with pupils is not about trying to please everyone or being happy 24/7. It is about being consistent and clear to them about what your values, boundaries and expectations are. If they come to respect you, the trust will build.

What to Expect in Your First Week as a Teaching Assistant

Classroom Management

You, as a teaching assistant, may get involved with classroom management, which is vital in creating and maintaining a positive, productive and structured learning environment. You may help manage classrooms by:

  • Maintaining order and managing behaviour.
  • Encouraging and engaging pupils.
  • Creating a positive, inclusive and conducive atmosphere that promotes learning.

Here are some tips to help you maintain a positive and structured learning environment:

  • Use positive reinforcement – introduce rewards to encourage desired behaviours among pupils, e.g. give praise, feedback and acknowledgement when pupils do well and adopt good behaviours. Positive reinforcement is better than punishment. Here is a case study where a school used rewards to encourage good behaviour (UK).
  • Establish clear and open communication lines – communicate openly and effectively with the lead teacher so you are both on the same page regarding expectations, boundaries and goals. Also, watch the tone of your voice and be calm when speaking to pupils, as shouting indicates a loss of control.
  • Give clear and concise instructions to pupils – explain tasks to pupils in the simplest terms and answer any questions they have clearly and concisely. Check with them to confirm they understand what they are doing.
  • Be proactive with challenging behaviour – observe and monitor pupils in the class to see how they are behaving to prevent any undesirable behaviours, such as distractions and inattentiveness. Always be consistent in your approach when dealing with this type of behaviour. Often, a look over to the pupils will be enough without intervention from the teacher.
  • Keep pupils engaged – pupils are more likely to become disruptive, inattentive and unmotivated if the lessons/activities are boring and are not interactive. Wherever possible, make it more fun by using a diverse range of methods and resources that meet all of the pupil’s needs in the classroom. Keep them busy and engaged.
  • Help pupils handle and resolve conflicts – arguments, disagreements and disputes are inevitable among pupils. Encourage them to talk openly to each other and identify solutions to resolve the conflict calmly.
  • Give additional support to pupils who need it – pupils who need one-to-one support will usually have an individualised plan. You may collaborate with teachers to develop and implement it to help pupils participate and learn.
  • Have good time management – maintain a structured environment by helping with time management in class. You could use visual aids or stopwatches to ensure lessons are on schedule and there is a smooth transition between activities.
What to Expect in Your First Week as a Teaching Assistant

Communication and Feedback

If you ask teaching assistants who have been in the role for a while, they usually say they and the lead teacher work closely and are a team. To get this sort of working relationship, you will need to have open communication with the lead teacher, which means being:

  • Honest, transparent and consistent when sharing information.
  • Able to express your ideas, thoughts, opinions and experiences without judgement or reprisal.

You must have open communication with the lead teacher because:

  • It will build a working relationship based on trust and respect.
  • It will make you feel more comfortable in your role and that your contribution is valued.
  • It will help to improve collaboration, which will help achieve common goals, i.e. pupil learning and development.
  • It helps prevent ‘power struggles’ and conflicts.

Part of having open communication is the ability to seek feedback on how you are progressing and if you need to make any improvements. Some employers will have progress meetings and reviews, especially in probation periods, to advise you on your performance. Whether they do or do not, it is important to seek feedback, as it will demonstrate to the lead teacher that you are willing to learn and committed to developing your skills.

To effectively seek feedback, you should:

  • Ask for feedback often, i.e. ask the lead teacher questions about how you are doing and if there is anything else you can do to help them or improve.
  • Find an appropriate time to ask for feedback, i.e. not when they are busy. It is also best not to put them on the spot but to arrange a time to discuss your performance.
  • Ask questions during feedback and take notes so you can act on their recommendations for improvement.
  • Develop an action plan to improve if they suggest improvements during feedback. Setting goals and having objectives on how to achieve them can help.
  • Follow up with the lead teacher to find out if you have improved and if there is anything else you need to do.

Don’t be afraid to ask for further information and support to help you improve.

What to Expect in Your First Week as a Teaching Assistant

Challenges and Problem-Solving

All new jobs come with challenges, but it can be especially tricky for teaching assistants. Entering the classroom, working with teachers, meeting pupils for the first time and liaising with parents can be a daunting prospect and can be challenging, especially during the first week.

You, as a new teaching assistant, may encounter:

  • Undesired behaviours – children often like to test boundaries and play up, especially with new people. They may be difficult, have poor attitudes, refuse to do their tasks and be downright rude in some cases.

To overcome this, you could:

  • Establish clear rules, boundaries and expectations from the outset.
  • Be calm, patient and emotionally resilient, i.e. don’t get angry, shout or cry.
  • Try to understand the causes of the behaviour.
  • Have a quiet and calm chat with the pupil. Alternatively, silence can sometimes be the best way.
  • Get to know pupils more and build relationships with them.
  • Use the tips from the National Education Union on managing behaviour. It is for new teachers, but you may also find it useful as a teaching assistant.
  • Information overload – you will receive much information in the first week of the job, e.g. names of colleagues/pupils, policies, procedures, instructions, etc. While it is natural to feel overwhelmed and overloaded, remember that you will not be expected to learn everything in your first week.

To overcome this, you could:

  • Take notes and review them at the end of the day.
  • Write down some questions if there was anything you were unsure of or need clarification on some points.
  • Create goals for learning information and timelines to achieve them.
  • Difficulty adjusting – it can often be hard to adjust in any new job, as there will be a culture to try to fit into and colleagues to get on with. It can be especially tough for teaching assistants, as they need to build relationships with lead teachers, other colleagues, pupils and even parents/caregivers. To overcome this, you could:
  • Use the tips above on meeting the teaching team and building rapport with pupils.
  • Remind yourself that everyone was new at some point, and it is normal to feel this way.
  • Write down all the positive things during your first week and focus on these points, not the negatives.

Being aware of these challenges and being prepared can help your first week run more smoothly and alleviate nervousness and stress. Education Support has some well-being resources that may help you in your first week and beyond.

What to Expect in Your First Week as a Teaching Assistant


While you want to make a good impression in your new teaching assistant job, it is crucial to not put too much pressure on yourself and not expect to know everything in your first week. The vital thing to remember is that every single one of your colleagues was new at some point and probably felt the same. Never be afraid to ask questions or for help.

You may be nervous about your first week, but everyone is when they start. If you approach it with enthusiasm and a willingness to learn, you will demonstrate to your colleagues that you are dedicated and motivated and can meet the role requirements. Look at your new career path as a marathon, not a sprint. It will take time to find your feet, but over time, it will happen.

You will naturally face challenges along the way, but even at difficult times, remember how important your role is. You are helping teachers to create a positive learning environment to support pupils’ development and give them the best education possible. We wish you a successful and fulfilling journey in starting your teaching assistant role. You can do this!

Please share your own experiences and insights in the comments section. You can use it to develop community and support among teaching assistants and others who work closely with them.

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