Inside Assistant Teacher Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"Excitement At The Opportunity Presented To Me...
I was surprised at the opportunities that this career path provided with me degree in mind" (English Substitute Teacher; 2014)

Career: 10 years of experience, currently based in Indiana, female
School: Studied English at Purdue in Indiana; completed Associate degree in 1992

"High Quality Of Students...
I have been surprised at similarities between students of different age groups and education levels. Despite different levels of experience, students in many categories are eager to learn and demonstrate much more knowledge than their education levels suggest." (Educator; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Illinois, male
School: Studied Chemistry at University Of Illinois in Illinois; completed Doctorate degree in 2012

"Kids Like Showing You What They Can Do...
I was amazed at how great 99% of kids are. Even if they are a little "hard" on the surface, they all have hopes and dreams, and just want someone to believe in them." (Teacher; 2014)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Michigan, female
School: Studied Japanese Language And Literature at Oakland University in Michigan; completed Bachelor degree in 2010

"Private Schools For More Than Just Rich Kids...
Most people are surprised by the various opportunities for teachers to work in private or semi-private institutions. Also, most people believe that private school kids are often rich, but there are a range of private schools and alternative schools that help underprivileged or abused children." (Teacher; 2014)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Wyoming, female
School: Studied Biology at Harding University in Arkansas in 2010

"Finding Work Right Away Is Easy In This Field...
Most people are surprised how easy it is to get hired as a substitute teacher. When you got to the administration building to sign up, you have to have at least 30 college credits, but do not need a degree. (May vary in other states) You apply for a teaching permit which is merely paying $30 to the state and having your college credits verified. You also pay $15 for a background check. You watch a video on preventing transferable diseases. They offer a free class where you meet with other new subs and an instructor gives advice on subbing. Then they put you in the phone system, and you get called for jobs. The pay rate here is $60 gross for a full day or $30 for a half day. Many subs are surprised how easy it is to sub. With high school assignments, you often are just taking attendance, and then passing out paperwork for them to do or writing book work assignments on a board. Elementary assignments are more complicated. there is a schedule of work for the day, and you are passing out a stack of papers. Elementary teachers leave long lesson plans, letting you know what to pass out first, what time to move on to the next papers, when to take them to specials and lunch. Many college students and in between career people are surprised at how easy and quick it is to get work as a sub. For those fresh out of school and needing work immediately to pay bills until they find something in their chosen field, this is much preferable to going to work at a burger joint to make a car payment until they find the right job. Of course, summer time is not available for sub work, and something else would have to be found to do then. Many people are surprised at how this temporary job can lead to more permanent and better work. Schools hire assistant teachers for rooms to help teachers grade papers and help students with work. Subs can often apply for these positions. One student I knew who graduated with a degree in helping disabled students specializing in hearing loss took a job as a sub for special ed, and found a permanent job that way in a school working with hearing disabled students. Other subs found permanent jobs working with special ed classes as para professionals assisting special ed teachers in classes. These jobs as paras are available by signing up with the schools para training classes. Many students who wish to become full time teachers themselves start off by subbing, which can lead to job offers in schools later. Many subs are surprised by how much fun they have and how much they like working with students. They have the satisfaction of feeling like they are doing something worthwhile, and enjoy the interactions with students. A substitute teacher job is also a good idea for those considering majoring in teaching while in college, so they can try the job out and make sure they like it before going through all the work to get a degree. Although subbing is a low paying job, with lots of time off in the summer, and no benefits, it is a good opportunity to find work right away, can lead to other jobs, and help make career decisions." (Substitute Teacher; 2014)

Career: 12 years of experience, currently based in Indiana, female
School: Studied English at Purdue Calumet University in Indiana; completed Bachelor degree in 1997

"It's Not About Teaching...
Many people thing education careers are about teaching and passing on information but a majority of the work is classroom management. Slowly but surely everything you loved about the profession must be sacrificed due to lack of administrative discipline and the knowledge that your job security depends on a students ability to take a test, not perform academically." (Tutor; 2013)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Texas, male
School: Studied Education at Texas Tech University in Texas; completed Bachelor degree in 2010

"Learning By Teaching...
I'm always surprised at how much I learn by teaching. When you teach, you have to look at the material through the perspective of each of your students. You learn to see things in different ways in order to become a better teacher." (Teaching Assistant; 2014)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in California, female
School: Studied Linguistics at University Of California, Santa Barbara in California; completed Master degree in 2012

"Students Dictate How You Work...
The students that you work with as an instructor make your career. They are independent variables that you have to mitigate, and each one has its own personality. Who you get grouped with is random, thus each day is a surprise in itself." (Educational Assistant; 2014)

Career: 6 years of experience, currently based in Oregon, male
School: Studied Geography at Humboldt State University in California; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Every Day Does Not Go As Planned...
I received much training but I was surprised that still did not feel adequately prepared for all that I encountered. Every child is very different, and there isn't a way to prepare for a perfect day. The success of the child is somewhat dependent on the teacher but also on the child and their parents. Also, there are real medical hazards when working with some severely disabled students. Your physical well being and health are at risk." (Teacher; 2013)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Missouri, female
School: Studied Teaching Special Education at Webster University in Missouri; completed Bachelor degree in 2006

"Special Needs Of Students...
I was surprised at the number of students who need special help, especially emotional help. There are so many students with ADHD, autism, ADD, and similar diagnosis that really need lots of help. I am also surprised how well I work with this type of student." (Teacher Assistant; 2013)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in New York, female
School: Studied Education at St. Lawrence Lewis BOCES in New York; completed Certificate degree in 2009

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Teacher'S Assistant: "The best part about my career is seeing children grow and learn and succeed in doing new things. It is easy to get more excited than the child when he achieves something great. The worst part about my career is seeing when children are not being given the best care possible outside the center. It is hard to witness injustices against innocent children. Another difficult part of my career is dealing with children who have behavioral problems. It can be hard to know what to do in these situations." (2011)

University Teacher Assistant: "The best part of the career is constantly learning new things. The saying "you learn when you teach" is a very accurate one because I learned the programs the students were using a great deal more since I needed to know the ins and outs of everything in order to accurately grade assignments fairly according to the instructor's guidelines. The worst part of my career is working with seniors who believe all work should be forwarded to the newest recruit while doing nothing themselves and collecting higher pay." (2011)

Special Education Aide: "The best parts of the job are the students and teachers with whom I work each day. I enjoy the challenges and like that fact that no two days are ever alike! The worst part of the job would have to be that I am not a classroom teacher, which is my true calling. Another negative aspect of the job is when an emotionally dysfunctional student is having a really difficult day and none of the tried and true methods for alleviating his discomfort are working. It's frustrating and leaves me feeling helpless. It's very hard to watch a student having a hard time this way." (2010)

Special Education Aide: "The best part of my job is the look of satisfaction that comes across a child's face when he finally achieves what he wants. It is always a wonderful knowing that you have kept kids "on task" and they have done what they set out to do. The children take great pride when they reach a goal and can move on to setting another goal for themselves. The worst part of the job is trying to keep everyone focused. That can at times get frustrating, but again when the goal is finally reached they are so thrilled it makes the difficult times easier." (2010)

Special Education Aide: "The best parts of the job are seeing the progress of one of my charges. It makes me feel like I am making a difference. The hardest part is feeling like I have no connection socially to my student, since he has a severe learning disability. It is emotionally and intellectually draining, but seeing him succeed makes it worth the long struggle." (2010)

Instructional Assistant: "The best part of the job is seeing the children become better readers, understand math concepts and get along with their peers. The worst part of my job is seeing children's potential squandered as thy move in and out of the school system. Most are homeless and need to move from shelter to shelter, and their school work suffers greatly." (2010)

Teaching Assistant: "The best part of my job is working with kids. This never gets boring and is always changing and challenging. The worst part is that sometimes I am needed by all three students at once. This can be overwhelming and frustrating. I feel that I need more arms and eyes to help and watch each student." (2010)

Career Background

Assistant Teacher

  Job Tasks
  Work Environment
  How to Prepare for the Job
  Job Outlook

Career Tips

"Career Choices And Goals...
If you want to go further in your career I would definitely suggest more careful thought when it comes to your schooling and career choice." (English Substitute Teacher; 2014)

"Take Advantage Of Mentors...
Get a good mentor and beg, borrow, and steal lesson ideas from them." (Teacher; 2014)

"Learning To Teach...
If you want to be a successful teacher, you should start out by helping your classmates. Leading peer groups in your current classes and tutoring younger students in your previous classes can help build the skills you need to be a successful teacher. Eventually you can move up to paid tutoring or coaching positions. Even if you want to teach in a classroom, coaching is helpful to since you learn how to manage large numbers of people who look up to you for guidance." (Teaching Assistant; 2014)

"Teaching: So Much More Than A Mass Babysitting Job...
Don't come into teaching thinking it is going to be an easy job. It is really challenging. You are not babysitting kids, you are helping lead them to their futures." (Teacher; 2014)

"Know What You Are Working Towards...
Predict the future, if you can. Use career tools, the internet, anything you can and depict whether the degree you are working towards will lead towards something you truly want." (Educational Assistant; 2014)

"Professional Attire And Arrival Is Important...
To gain more subbing jobs and find other jobs in schools, it is helpful to remember that this job is looking for people who look and act like professionals. The dress code should be business casual, no t-shirts or jeans or sweat shirts or pants. Another important tip for success is to be early to the required start time they give you. You may have to make copies of papers, or the teacher may be very sick and didn't get lesson plans ready and you have to seek a neighboring teacher for advice. It may be hard to find a parking spot and the secretary may have a lot of people in the office so it takes time to get to your assigned room. Being early will help prevent problems." (Substitute Teacher; 2014)

"Understand Your Students...
Being successful as an educator requires an understanding of the wide variety of student learning styles. Working with the students individually and in groups can provide a rewarding experience." (Educator; 2013)

"Prepare To Sacrifice...
Accept that you will not be able to do things that you want to do, no matter how good your ideas are. The position is not as noble as you are led to believe." (Tutor; 2013)

"Every Day Will Not Go Perfectly...
As a special education teacher, learn as much as you can about the students you are working with. Do not get discouraged if everything doesn't go as planned every day. Shake a bad hour or lesson off and start fresh with the next lesson or day." (Teacher; 2013)

"Love Even The Ones You Don't Like...
Be sure to make good connections while in school. Having references from professors who have seen your hard work is very important in obtaining a job like this. Learn to love the children that you don't like. Being kind to a child who is constantly misbehaving can make a world of difference. Be prepared to do more work than you are paid for. Teachers do A LOT of work outside of school hours in order to make the best impression they can on their students." (Teacher'S Assistant; 2011)

"Online Teaching Not Easier...
I got my job through a posting from the instructor saying he needed an assistant who did well in his course. Work hard in all of your classes, you never know which one you might be working with later! Taking a class is not the same as working for one. Be prepared to learn everything you think you know all over again in order to help others. Online work doesn't mean it is easier, as online position requires a lot of time and commitment." (University Teacher Assistant; 2011)

"Be An Aide First Before An Expensive Education...
Because in my state you have to have a master's degree to work as a teacher, I would encourage aspirants to work as an aide first to make absolutely certain this is the career path for you. Obtaining a master's degree and sitting through several state mandated teaching tests is extremely expensive and time-consuming and doesn't guarantee a teaching job. (It is an extremely competitive field.) In some cases, it may take several years to secure a full-time teaching job, and even then, the salary you earn does not compensate you for the money you spent on your master's degree." (Special Education Aide; 2010)

"Children Need Empathy...
Have patience and know what you are getting involved with. The children need people with patience and the ability to understand what they are going through. Take as many courses as you can that deal with behavioral issues. The better versed you are in those areas the better off you'll be. The children come from so many different backgrounds and with so many different problems you can never be too educated to deal with them." (Special Education Aide; 2010)

"Difficulties Now Will Eventually Pay Off...
I would say that it is important to take deep breaths and not take failures personally. There will be times that are extremely hard and challenging, but it is also great experience and background to have for other education jobs, and maybe life as a whole. Other advice would be to try and be patient and understand that it is a learning process for you as well as the student. For me, this job is just the beginning of my career in education, so I have to constantly remind myself that this is not what I will do for the rest of my life. I have to remember that the hard times now will benefit me greatly in the future." (Special Education Aide; 2010)

"Hours May Conflict With Your Children's...
To become an IA: you first need to know if you want to work in high school, junior high or elementary. You also need to know if you want special education or grade K. Although the hours are very good, you need to be aware that if you have children in the system, at another school, you may be prevented from attending their performances, because you cannot leave your school. This position is best suited for retirees and people thinking about working in the school system." (Instructional Assistant; 2010)

"You Might Need A Second Job...
Though mine is a challenging job, it is worth it to see the growth my students makes. I love the people I work with and feel very supported. The pay is not good at all. You really have to love what you do and perhaps have another job too." (Teaching Assistant; 2010)