What Is The Difference Between A Teacher Aide And A Teacher Assistant?

Teacher aides and teacher assistants both work in schools and are considered as paraprofessionals. The dictionary defines a paraprofessional as “a person to whom a particular aspect of a professional task is delegated but who is not licensed to practice as a fully qualified professional.” Under the supervision of a teacher, both of them work to reinforce the instruction provided by the teacher in the preschool, elementary, middle school and high school classrooms.

Based on existing resources, there seems to be contrasting ideas on the difference between teacher aides and teacher assistants. For example, they review the lessons that the teacher has presented with small groups or with each individual students. They also check attendance and help the teachers compute grades. They also get teaching materials and equipment ready for the teacher. Moreover, teacher assistants and teacher aides also see to it that school and class regulations are being followed. They also assist teachers outside the classroom, such as by supervising them at lunch or going with them during school-sanctioned field trips.

The New York State Education Department (NYSED), however, distinguishes between a teacher aide and a teacher assistant. It defines teacher assistants as those that “provide instructional services to students under the general supervision of a licensed or certified teacher.” Teacher aides, on the other hand, “perform non-instructional duties under supervision determined by the local school district in accordance with Civil Service Law.” The NYSED requires teaching assistants to obtain certification as a Level I, Level II, Level III, Pre-Professional Temporary or Continuing Teaching Assistant certifications. However, certification is not required for teacher aides who will be employed following the Civil Service Laws in New York State.

The NYSED further outlines the duties that teaching assistants and teacher aides can do. Teaching assistants can work with students in one-on-one or group on what the department calls “special instructional projects.” They also provide teachers with information and details about their students so that the primary teachers can develop age-appropriate and behavior-appropriate lessons and other learning activities that will fit the students’ age and learning styles. Moreover, teacher assistants also help students use the available instructional resources correctly. They may also assist in developing instructional materials.

Teacher aides, meanwhile, are concerned with non-instructional tasks.

For example, they may help with physical care and health-related activities as well as in assisting teachers with the behavioral or management needs of the students. They also assist teachers in the laboratory by getting laboratory equipment and the necessary materials ready and in helping students performing the necessary experiments. They may also proctor the exams, help check test papers, record grades and maintain student files. If educational materials need to be recorded, they help prepare scripts and assist in the production process. For teacher aides attending to students in the lower levels, they may read and play audio visual resources.

Those who are interested in pursuing a career as a teacher aide or teacher assistant would do well to check with the education department of the state where they intend to work to determine if teacher assistants are the same as teacher aides and if they both hold the same responsibilities.

No matter what the specific job duties are of teacher assistants and teacher aides, both types of paraprofessionals need to be patient. They will be working with students of varying abilities and backgrounds which can be emotionally and mentally challenging. This is especially true for those who are working with special needs students.

They also need to be resourceful since the students they assist may not respond well to a particular teaching method. When this happens, they have to find another way to help the students. They should also possess excellent communication and interpersonal skills since they are going to be working not only with students but with teachers, administrators and parents as well. But perhaps the most important trait that teacher assistants and teacher aides should possess is a genuine concern for the welfare of the students under their care.

Career Spotlight: Teacher Assistant

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