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Collaboration between Teaching Assistants and Classroom Teachers

by Donna DeCourcy

I have been lucky enough to have worked with excellent Teaching Assistants, whose role is to assist in reaching the goals for children on Individual Education Plans.

Teaching Assistants are assigned to a school  based on the needs of students with special needs. They often work with a number of students in different classrooms. They may assist physically with mobility or medical or personal care. These men and women are vital in facilitating the integration of children with special needs in our schools.

It is so important that the relationship between the teacher and the TA be one of collaboration. Often the TA has worked with a specific child for a number of years, so it is easy to assume that the teacher might feel less capable of heading up the educational goals of the child. Yet, this is the teacher’s role.

These are goals we tried to attain but did not always achieve:

  1. Regular meetings and discussions with the teacher and EA to review the goals on the IEP and to revise and adjust the child’s program.
  2. Clear plans regarding the choices available when transitions or circumstances occur where the child is not able to cope with regular programming.
  3. A variety of rewards, rest times, alternative programs and activities that help the child, with the understanding that the EA has the independence to adjust the schedule, based on the child’s needs.
  4. A plan that includes programming with other students to ensure inclusion, as well as some independent time in the child’s day.

Some of the challenges in meeting these goals include finding the time to collaborate within the paid hours of the TA, figuring out the best ways to implement the goals of the IEP,  dealing with changes in schedules, and providing meaningful inclusion.

Balancing the needs of all children is an art.  A great TA/Teacher team works hard to put these goals foremost for the benefit of all children.


 How have you collaborated with Educational Assistants to best integrate and meet the needs of all students? Please share your experiences.


Over her 30+ year career, Donna Baxter DeCourcy has been a classroom teacher, Special Education resource teacher, technology curriculum innovator, and literacy coach. She has had a variety of experiences during her digital journey ranging from IBI programs, website development, and curriculum writing to integrate technology in the classroom. Donna’s innovative work earned her the Prime Minister’s Certificate of Excellence, and the John Fruedeman Award for Curriculum Development. Her experience as a Special Education Resource Teacher and Literacy Coach helped her to integrate her knowledge of special education with teacher development through Professional Learning Communities. Catch up with Donna by visiting her inspiring and practical blog called Learning with Donna.


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  • http://corriganeducation.ca Kathleen Corrigan

    I agree with Neil’s comments about the challenging and thankless job EAs perform so cheerfully. However, perhaps, it need not be so thankless. If we form the team Donna describes the EA sees he/she has more than a custodial role in the children’s lives – not thankless. If we form a team then we listen to the EA’s knowledge. They see our children through a different lens and this information can help inform our teaching. When the EA sees changes or lessons based on his/her input and sees the children respond – that is a measure of thanks indeed! When the children’s eyes light up when the EA arrives – that is thanks. But we have to be sure we set up the trust and structures that let the thanks flow! They help us, help the students, and help keep our children safe and healthy. Gems indeed. Thank you!

  • http://neilfinney.blogspot.com neil

    Hi Donna. As a former Intermediate Developmental Skills teacher, I absolutely know the importance – and value – of an educational assistant when it comes to the learning and personal development of our many-skilled students. I had the privilege of working directly with two incredible EAs whose passion for educating and love of their jobs emanated through everything they did. Their strengths and knowledge were used as a focus for some lessons and THEY were the experts of many things that my intermediate DS students undertook. It is a difficult – and often thankless – job. However, I strongly believe that it really is the glue that holds a child’s potential for learning and growth together.

    A comfort zone. A safety net. An advocate. A caregiver. Educational Assistants matter and their collaboration with class teachers is paramount to a classroom’s success. Thanks for bringing much needed awareness to such an important topic!