The Association of International School Teaching Assistants and PD for TAs
The way a school approaches training says a lot about its culture, according to Peter Hogan, who looks at new CPD opportunities for TAs with AISTA.
What’s in a meme?
We are exposed to memes and inspirational quotes everywhere now. Anyone with the inclination and basic skills can dash off a few lines, add a dreamy background and post like a philosopher, motivational speaker or global guru. I doubt that Sun Tzu, Confucius, Einstein, Gandhi or Maya Angelou ever expected to have quite so many wise words and home-spun insights, apocryphal or otherwise, attributed to them.
Mind you, amidst the avalanche of advice and torrent of truths there are a few that can stop and make us think. When this happens is hardly matters who said it or when, what matters is what we do about it. Hold on…am I doing it now? Was that yet another thought-provoking one-liner just there?
What makes a school?
I have been lucky enough to have spent 20 years running very diverse schools in England, Scotland, Wales and Bangkok. Separately these schools have been a second home for young people from the UK’s most socially deprived regions, from members of the so-called aristocracy and most recently from 40 nationalities ranging from Armenia to Australia. I hope experienced teachers would agree with my belief that no matter the background of kids, the fundamentals of their learning and the routes to good teaching are the same.
We always put the needs of the children sitting in front of us first, we use the approaches most suited to these needs, we maximise the resources at our disposal and we give 100% every day. From ultra-modern Academies to traditional boarding my schools have all been very different, but I have found the best and most challenging part of my professional life has been the same everywhere. It’s the people. It’s the staff we work with and this brings me to my number one meme whose author, it is claimed, is Mr Henry Ford, Founder of the Ford Motor Company.
Henry Ford on training
He (might have) said, “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay”. No matter how smart a teacher when they graduate, no matter their potential on joining a staff, if they neglect their training then they will diminish as a professional. Regular, high impact training is essential in schools, enlivening for staff and, most importantly, beneficial for the children.
School culture and training
You can learn a lot about a school and its culture by looking at the way it approaches training and who is included. Is it top-heavy with all the money spent on the senior, promoted staff? Is it need-driven and only happening when there is a change in legislation or a problem? Is it frugal or a generous part of the budget? Inevitably investing in training is a reflection of what the school believes about its staff.
The importance of training Teaching Assistants
One of the really important measures of a school’s true commitment to its people is how far training extends. Does all the budget go on the teachers? How much is spent on training support staff? When running schools in the UK, I was used to allocating suitable funds to Teaching Assistants but was both shocked and saddened to see that there was no culture of doing this in many international schools. These TAs are not very well paid, they take on a massive array of duties, some are bilingual or trilingual, called upon for translation and interpreting and many are graduates in their home country.
Added to this, schools are keen to recruit the spouses of teachers as well into TA roles and although they can add a great deal few come with directly transferrable skills. This makes for a diverse group with important jobs to do. They will be spending almost all their days in direct, close contact with the children. As such they should be a priority, not an after-thought in the matter of systematic training and development?
The Association of International School Teaching Assistants (AISTA)
In the UK, TAs have their own professional body, the National Association of Teaching Assistants (NAPTA) and can take accredited training courses and receive certification. Already 150,000 have done so since 2003. The great news is that NAPTA are going global and have launched the Association of International School Teaching Assistants (AISTA).
Alongside this new body there is a new professional development programme available designed specifically for international school TAs. The courses cover a range of vital areas, are written by experts in their fields, last a few hours each and TAs will gain certification, accreditation and recognition for the courses they take.
AISTA courses for TAs
The brilliant, unique feature of the AISTA programme is that all courses can be delivered directly to the TAs phone, tablet or any other device so the training can be done at their own pace or during school inset. At last, TAs around the world can be trained and have career development through tailor made courses, delivered at convenient times, written just for them and at a cost that good schools will see as affordable.
Will schools invest in training TAs or will these unsung members of staff stay unseen? It is hard to predict how they will react but by making training available, visible and telling schools about it at least they have a choice.
Peter Hogan has been the Head of schools in the UK and Asia for 20 years. He writes about schools, teaching and learning at hogan.education
For more information about AISTA contact: