Karen Smith is a TA in the making. Her account documents the struggles with changing careers, starting a new course and the excitement that has followed.
Last summer, I decided to become a Teaching Assistant. My sister is a science lab technician at a local secondary school and told me there were always TA positions being advertised. I’ve always been good with children, especially when they’ve been challenging, so I figured I’d be good at the job. Plus, I had worked as a graphic designer for so long, I was starting to get itchy feet.
I enquired about any open positions at the school, but was told the minimum qualification they would accept is a Level 2 QCF or equivalent. This came as a shock because I already had A Levels and a degree in Biology. It was also apparent that the school was not hiring good enough TA staff as turnover was pretty high. Were they only going to accept those with a ‘Level 2 QCF’ qualification?
I dug deeper and discovered many schools in the area were requesting the same qualification as a minimum. Frankly, I had no idea what a Level 2 QCF was! I briefly read through the course information and glanced through the unit headings. No need for more study, I thought, so I reconsidered the change in career and resumed normal life.
Those next few months were tough. The more I thought about becoming a Teaching Assistant, the more I yearned for a change. My job had become stale and uninteresting and I started to feel trapped an uncreative. I’d get up for work and feel an absolute dread. The money was good, yet it didn’t seem to fill the gap inside me.
I looked up those course details again and wondered if I had been hasty all those months ago. Suddenly, the course content looked really appealing. The emphasis was on child development and safeguarding their welfare. Yes, it would mean studying again for some months, but the subject matter was really up my street. Even if I decided not to continue with a TA career, surely I would have learnt a great deal about how children develop? I’d learn how to communicate properly with children and apply it to my own offspring one day?
I browsed through a number of online courses and settled with a Level 2 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools. This appeared to be the most popular of them all and the local schools nodded their heads in agreement when I visited to discuss my options.
Suddenly, there was a spark inside of me. I was going to study in the evenings while working, but arrange a work placement during a sabbatical period. That was 4 months ago and I’m now well into my course. Sure, it’s tough trying to squeeze everything in. I barely get time to watch TV or talk to my partner! But it’s only for the short term. The work I’ve already done at my local school has raised eyebrows and I’m being pencilled in for future roles.
I am really excited about my future. Somewhere along the way, I had become complacent and comfortable with life. But as I approach 30, I want to be proud of my achievements. Is it cheesy to say I want to ‘make a difference’? Of course it is! But I’m saying it with a big smile on my face!
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