Teacher aides handle routine activities to give teachers more time for teaching. They help and supervise students in the classroom, cafeteria, or school yard. They record grades, set up equipment, or help prepare materials for instruction.
Aides' responsibilities vary greatly by school district. In some, aides help with the instruction of children, under the supervision and guidance of teachers. They work with students individually or in small groups--listen to students read, help them find information for reports, and watch them demonstrate a skill. Sometimes, aides take charge of special projects and prepare equipment or exhibits for a science demonstration, for example.
In other districts, teacher aides handle routine nonteaching tasks. They grade tests and papers, check homework, and keep health and attendance records. Secretarial duties such as typing, filing, and duplicating materials for the teacher's use may be part of the aide's job. At other times they may stock supplies, operate audiovisual equipment and keep classroom equipment in order. They also may supervise students during lunch and recreation periods and school bus loading.
Many teacher aides work part time. They may work outdoors when weather allows and spend much of their time standing, walking, or kneeling. Working closely with the students can be both physically and emotionally tiring.
Teacher aides held 684,000 jobs in 1990. About 8 out of 10 worked in elementary and secondary schools, with many concentrated in the lower grades. Some assist special education teachers with physically, mentally, or emotionally handicapped children. Their employment is distributed geographically much the same as the population.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Educational requirements for teacher aides range from less than a high school diploma to some college training. Districts that give aides teaching responsibilities usually require more training than those which assign them clerical or monitor duties.
Teacher aides generally receive on-the-job training. However, a number of 2-year and community colleges offer associate degree programs that prepare graduates to work as teacher aides.
Newly hired teacher aides undergo a period of orientation and training. Aides are taught how to operate audiovisual equipment, administer first aid, and keep records. They learn to make charts and other instructional materials and how to prepare bulletin boards. In addition, they are made familiar with the organization and operation of a school and the methods used to teach handwriting, reading, math, science, and other subjects.
Teacher aides should enjoy working with children and be able to handle classroom situations with fairness and patience. Preference may be given in hiring to those with previous experience in working with children. Aides also must demonstrate initiative and a willingness to follow teacher's directions. They must have good oral and writing skills and be able to communicate effectively with students and teachers. Clerical skills may also be necessary.
Ten States have certification procedures for general teacher aides. To qualify, an individual may need a high school diploma or general equivalency degree (G.E.D.), or even some college training. Kansas, Louisiana, Texas, and Wisconsin grant permits for paraprofessionals, as some aides are called, in the field of special education.
Many schools may have additional regulations regarding the hiring of teacher aides. For example, some school districts give preference to persons residing within the school district; some require that teacher aides pass a physical examination. School superintendents and State departments of education can provide details on employment requirements.
Advancement for teacher aides, usually in the form of higher earnings or increased responsibility, comes primarily with experience. Some school districts provide release time so that aides may take college courses. Aides who earn bachelor's degrees may become certified teachers.
Employment of teacher aides is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2000, primarily reflecting rising enrollments at the elementary school level. Enrollment growth will not occur at the same rate in all parts of the country, however. Largely because of migration to the South and West, enrollment increases are expected to be greater in those regions than in the Northeast and North Central States.
Teacher aide employment is sensitive to changes in State and local expenditures for education. Pressures on education budgets are greater in some States and localities than in others. A number of teacher aide positions are financed through Federal programs, reduction in which would affect some districts more than others.
Because of relatively high turnover in the occupation, most openings for teacher aides are expected to occur as a result of the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations, leave the labor force to assume full-time housekeeping responsibilities, return to school, or for other reasons.
In 1990, aides involved in teaching activities earned an average of about $7.33 an hour; those performing only nonteaching activities averaged about $6.38 an hour. Earnings varied by region and also by the work experience and academic qualifications of the aide. Many aides are covered by collective bargaining agreements and have health and pension benefits similar to those of the teachers in their schools.
The educational support activities that teacher aides perform demand organizational skills, cooperativeness, recordkeeping ability, and a talent for getting along with people. Other occupations requiring some or all of these skills include childcare attendants, career guidance technicians, home health aides, library attendants, medical record technicians, nurse aides, receptionists, record custodians, and retail sales clerks.
Sources of Additional Information
Information on a wide range of education-related issues, including teacher aide unionization, can be obtained from:
American Federation of Teachers, 555 New Jersey Ave. NW., Washington, D.C. 20001.