Interview with a Teaching Assistant02 Mar, 20231-2 minutes
Working in education requires hard work, organisation, compassion and patience.
If you’re considering a career in the classroom, we’ve been catching up with Caroline Pearson, a Teaching Assistant from the North West of England to discover more about her career path so far and which of her hobbies she enjoys sharing with her students.
How did you decide you wanted to work in the education industry?
When I was a child, my dream career was to be a Primary School Teacher but life chances and choices took me on very different paths.
I had decided to follow a different career and started a Nursing Course. I failed my final exams and whilst appealing due to personal difficulties, I decided to apply for Greater Manchester Police as a Constable.
I was successful with my application and was in that role for 21 years. After obtaining my Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, I decided it was time for a career change. My husband, who had also been a Police Officer, retired on ill health grounds and is quite poorly. I have three sons, the eldest having Autism and Mental Health difficulties. I have always felt quite passionately about education provisions for non mainstream children especially given my son's difficult journey through education, but didn't know where to start.
Circumstances in my life led me to work in a Day Service for adults with Autism but I was needed at home more during the day as my son and husband were having dips in their health and numerous clinical appointments that I needed to attend with them, so I started working nights in a Dementia Care Home.
In all my roles, I learned so many skills, particularly around person centred care and individuals needs being met.
In mid 2022, I was contacted by Jamie Heath from Spencer Clarke Group. He had seen my CV online and he told me about a Teaching Assistant Post at a School for SEN children specifically with Autism.
He thought the role would suit me having read about my experiences on my CV. At the time I was not actively seeking alternative employment but I was so excited by the role after hearing more about it. I was asked to go for an interview and a trial day. I was then offered a permanent post!
What is your favourite thing about being a Teaching Assistant?
I love my role because every day is different. There are challenges but I can really use my creative thinking skills and knowledge to work through them. There is so much support and opportunities for growth and lots of courses offered.
I was worried that I had no formal Teaching Assistant qualifications but all the training is provided and my life experiences have allowed me to follow this career path. I absolutely love my role and hope I can be a part of a team like this until retirement age.
A major perk is that I only work term time and have all the school holidays off which gives me the perfect work / life balance!
Do you have any interests / hobbies outside of work that have helped your career?
I love crafting! I’ll have a go at any crafts and I particularly enjoy sewing, jewellery making, drawing and painting. These are all skills I can use daily within the school environment. One child I work with loves to create soft toys using his ideas and my sewing skills. This helps him to regulate.
If our team wants craft ideas they will come to me. I even created costumes for a talent show at the school I work at.
I walk my dogs daily which helps me to keep reasonably fit and healthy which you need to be in school to keep up with the students. It's such a privilege to be a part of these wonderful students' journeys and share skills with them to inspire them to try positive activities.
What advice would you give to someone looking to enter this field of work?
Anyone looking for a challenging, respectable, fulfilling and totally rewarding career should look into education, in particular for children with very individual needs.
If you are caring, confident and feel passionately that all children deserve the opportunities to grow, progress and thrive then you should go for it.
The team at the school I work at are so supportive and encouraging and as stated earlier there are so many opportunities to develop your career within the service.
The agency introduction is a great way to try the role before you sign a contract.
If you could make one change within your industry what would it be and why?
The only thing I would change about my career is the pay scale. By this I mean the role of a Teaching Assistant is so important and the pay scale should reflect this better in my opinion.
I have to say though, the places I have worked do make their staff feel valued!
What does a typical working day involve?
A typical day will involve a staff team briefing where we are allocated to whichever child we are supporting on that day. A lot of the children in school are staffed 1 to 1 or 2 to 1 depending on their needs.
We would then set up for the day and await the child's arrival. I then spend the day supporting that child with their individual curriculum and activities to help them to progress. I also support them at meal times and sometimes with personal care and transport on occasions. Their progress is documented and work marked.
We also work alongside other professionals with a multi-agency team approach around the child such as Occupational Therapists and Speech and Language Therapists. At the end of the day, we have a staff team debrief before finishing work for the day.
Which of your personal attributes have helped you throughout your career so far?
I am the happiest I have ever been in my working life. I am so grateful that Jamie contacted me and I was brave enough to take a chance. I feel I was made for this role. I am motivated and professional and I can contribute well to the team. I feel confident in my own abilities and can relate well to the children.
My own personal family circumstances and previous roles have provided me with experience to deal calmly with behaviour that challenges me and at times to de-escalate situations or find solutions to problems.
I feel so satisfied within work and feel that all my core skills get utilised daily and I feel really fulfilled at the end of every day!
Who is Spencer Clarke Group?
Since 2017, we've been changing the face of recruitment. From our employees, to the way we do business, to the culture within our office, we're determined to make a difference and create a positive impact on everyone around us.
Recruitment to us isn't just about matching candidates and clients; we’re passionate about finding candidates the perfect job which has the ability to boost their salary and standard of living, better their work life balance and improve their mental health.
Similarly, we understand the impact which an experienced and skilled employee can make to a business and we love seeing clients thrive through the hard work of candidates which we have placed with them.
We operate in two sectors:
In eleven specialisms:
If you’re searching for a new role, why not visit our job page to take a look at the latest opportunities? Alternatively, upload your CV and one of our experienced consultants will contact you when a relevant opportunity becomes available.
If you’re struggling to fill a role, why don’t you give us a call on 01772 954200 to see how we can help? One of our consultants will be happy to listen to the challenges which you are facing and advise on the best possible solution for you.