A Day in the Life of a Teaching Assistant - Marie's Story

A teaching assistant is a vital role within the school community. They assist the teacher with daily classroom and teaching responsibilities, and also act as a role model to children and help to educate future generations.

Marie Copeland has been a teaching assistant for 20 years. She loves the job and wants to tell her story to inspire more people to do the same.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your home life.

I am a married mum of 3 adult children – and a teaching assistant as you know. There’s not much to say to be completely honest. I am quite “normal” in most respects. I’m part of a women’s running group and spend most of my free time with my family and friends. I’d say I’m quite active. I'm a member of the National Trust so enjoy visiting historical sites and exploring the English countryside.

What made you want to become a teaching assistant?

I didn’t know straight away that I wanted to be a teaching assistant, but I always knew that I wanted to work with children. When my youngest child started nursery, I used to occupy my time by going along to help out a few afternoons during the week. It worked out well for me. It meant that I could do something I enjoy while spending time with my own children. After a period of doing this, I knew it was something I wanted to do full time because I really enjoyed it.

It was an ideal solution for both my career and personal life. It meant I didn’t need to arrange childcare, and could spend more time with my own children as well as others.

How did you study/train?

I started a bit later than most at the age of 31. My youngest child was in nursery so it made sense. My child's school gave me the opportunity to complete a placement with them. This meant I could gain experience whilst studying at home and attending college once a week.

It honestly was the perfect set up. My entire family would sit around the dinner table – me doing my coursework and my children doing their homework. It really gave me a sense of purpose and helped me to feel more like a role model to my children. I think seeing their mother doing “homework” too encouraged my children to do their own. Plus, it showed them that learning isn’t something that is just for children; you’re never too old to learn.

With that in mind, I’m currently studying a new specialist course that looks at working with children to support them with matters concerning issues at home, such as bereavement.

What’s the average day like for a teaching assistant?

To be honest, there is not really an “average day”, which is one of the aspects that I love about my job. Typically, my day starts welcoming the children and ensuring they have everything they need for the day. This could be anything from their work, to breakfast or – on the rare occasion – clothes!

During the morning, I spend my time working with groups of SEND (Special Education Needs and Disabilities) children to provide them with extra support in maths and English, helping them to develop in these areas. I do a lot of one-on-one work with individual children, too. This could be listening to reading or providing support in other subject areas. Or I may be working with groups of children on projects or offering additional support.

What are your favourite things about the role?

The short (and perhaps obvious) answer is the children! I am fortunate to be able to spend a lot of time with a variety of different children, meaning I get to know them really well. I am the children’s first point of call and role model within my position, which allows me to build really positive and trusting relationships. Plus I get to go on a lot of fun activity days out!

A Day in the Life of a Teaching Assistant

What’s the worst thing about the role?

Dealing with sick! I don’t think anything can prepare you or make you immune to having to clean up sick. Not even having your own children. But I’ve become really good at spotting when a child is about to be sick and grabbing the closest waste paper basket for them.

Do you think you would ever want to train to become a teacher?

Personally no, although I know many teaching assistants who have gone on to become teachers when the time was right for them. For me, I have a really great work-life balance and I enjoy the unique bonds that I get to build with the students. You don’t have as many of these opportunities as a teacher.

If you could give any advice for aspiring teachers/teaching assistants, what would it be?

Don’t take criticism to heart! If someone is giving you feedback it's really important that you listen and take it on board, regardless of how long you’ve been doing your job. Keep in mind that they are only trying to help you get better at your job.

Thank you to Marie for sharing your story with us!

If Marie has inspired you to get involved in children's education, why not consider a distance learning course with Open Study College? You can study around your existing work and family commitments, and learn at your own pace whenever and wherever suits you. Take a look at our teaching assistant courses.

Or perhaps you want to work with children in more of a general childcare capacity? We have lots of courses in that area too, including caring for children and young people and understanding children's and young people's mental health. View all childcare courses here.

For more information about any of our courses, call our student adviser team on 03300 563100.

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Sharnie Carter

A Day in the Life of a Teaching Assistant – Marie’s Story