How to enjoy being a Special Needs Assistant in a Primary School

26 Jan

These are my tips for getting the most out of working 1 to 1 with statemented KS2 children.

Smile, a lot. Being happy is infectious.

Do not try to be friends with the child, your role is to be an adult in school that they like (most of the time!) and respect.

Never lose your temper – always be polite, well mannered and thoughtful. I have visualised myself as a Jedi master (use whatever image you can relate to) in my head to maintain my external serenity. Swear inside your head if it helps.

Always use positive body language and never roll your eyes behind the child’d back. They can sense this.

Talk privately in the staffroom (with the door closed) to your colleaugues to get out your frustrations, if the child is having a trying day. Ask for help, other staff may have useful suggestions. You will feel better after telling someone else you are having a bad day.

Be a Reflective Practitioner. If something you try doesn’t work, write it down and use it to think about what to try next time. Keep a personal record of good and bad days, and what did and didn’t work. There may be an official book to write up in, remember to put positive comments in it too.

Talk to the child at breaktimes and find out what they are interested in. Use their interests to make some of their work more appealing to them or say “How would Doctor Who answer this question?”

Don’t bore them with long stories about yourself. Tell them little bits about your family, your pets, what you watched on TV (if it’s a show they like too) etc. to engage them to talk to you about themselves.

Be on their side if there is a fall-out with another child or adult in the school. Even if they are at fault, sympathise with why it happened and help them to make things right again.

If you feel yourself getting stressed or wound up in a tricky situation, tell another adult in the school. They can either take over from you for a few minutes or back you up.

If the child has anger issues, agree a signal between you and the teacher, so you can signal them if the child is starting to get angry. Learn what triggers the child in lessons and to read their body language, so you can suggest moving to the shared area and away from the classroom, before they get angry in the classroom. It is easier to deal with their anger, away from an audience of 29 other children.

If you use a Red Card system to fetch help from a designated adult, carry one in your pocket at all times and know where the card is placed in the classroom. Make sure the other chldren in the classroom know what to do if they are asked to take the Red Card. Be aware of which staff are not in school each day, if they are part of the team to help you.

Do not be afraid of asking for help if you feel you cannot cope with certain behaviour. Observe how other staff deal with similar situations and decide what you could try another time.

Be firm. Do not ever be wishy washy. Children are experts at working out the weakest link and emotionally manipulating that person. Do not be that person.

Have fun! Be enthusiastic! Exclaim whow much you are enjoying the lesson!

A good phrase to use it “Talk to me and I will help you.” Do help. Ask around. Let the child know who you have asked and what you found out to help them.

Praise them. Remind them regularly of their strengths and what they do well. Use the school reward scheme and their individual one (if they have one). Tell other adults in the school in front of the child, how happy you are with them when they have worked hard. Tell their parents too at hometime.

Remember to communicate good things to their parents, as well as any tricky issues. Make sure that it’s not all negative.

Be open and honest in meetings. Take your personal notes about what did and didn’t work in tricky situations.

Being a Special Needs Assistant isn’t for everyone, but there is so much to learn from it and so many times that you can go home knowing that you have made a difference to a child’s life.



In Which I Attempt to Organise my Home

1 Sep
The Organised Housewife

Our home needs a serious declutter & re-organise, and as I work in a school, September seems like a good place to start! New year, more space? Let’s hope so!

The Boden Sale

8 Jul

I first heard rumours of this early in the week. Then, a friend told me it was going to happen today, but I ended up having to go back to bed late morning with a tummy bug 😦

It started an hour after I crawled out of bed, so I managed to get:

Lavender photographers jacket for me (that I admired this morning before the website went offline)

Lavender striped towelling hoodie for DD1 (DD2 said she wanted the turquoise one which was sold out & wasn’t bothered by the other colours)

My Birthday Money

7 Jul

For my 44th Birthday in May, I had no idea what I wanted, so I asked family for money, to put towards a shed for my allotment. Then, I felt really, really old & middle aged when I told friends I was having a shed for my birthday. Then, upon doing some shed research online, I realised that the very generous £200 I had amassed wasn’t enough for the sort of shed that I wanted. I toyed with saving the £200 & asking for the same thing again next year, but dismissed that idea fairly quickly 😛 I then decided on buying a pushbike, so I could cycle to work, rather than walk in the summer. Summer has yet to arrive & after putting my back out twice, I’ve spent some of my lovely birthday present money on:

A lovely Cath Kidston cross body bag (with 20% off) in sage green with spots (bonus points as it’s made form oilcloth, so is waterproof, I originaly wanted a cloth one)

A purple Radley bag in the sale (my first Radley purchase, it won’t be my last) I deliberately bought the smallest size, as 99% of my bags are large & I carry far too much stuff around with me. The downside is that my lovely leather wallet from Autograph takes up half the bag, so I need a small coin purse to decamp to when I use it. I christened my bag a few nights ago when I went to Wetherspoons curry night with the PTFA & used my daughter’s sequin butterfly shaped purse, which made me feel like I was about 6 years old. My bag was greatly admired though 🙂

Wonderful funky sandals from Autograph with a small heel. Bought as an emergency last minute purchase the day before a friend’s wedding, as the very high wedges I’d bought from Clarks to go with my new dress were too high as I’d put my back out & was in a lot of discomfort. To say they were bought in a rush & panic, they are one of my most favourite pairs of shoes I have ever owned. My 7 year old also adores them & I can never find them as she wears them around the house, clip clopping around, & never puts them back in my bedroom.

A very stylish navy & white striped blazer from the Next Outlet at Freeport. I wore it to work & everyone assumed I was going to a job interview as I usually wear a cardigan.

Funky cream linen blend harem style trousers, also from the Next Outlet. I never saw myself as wearing something so “fashionable” as I’m a classic, buy good quality & wear it for years style of dresser, but they are very flattering on & I’m always complimented. I’ve worn them to work & to the pub, along with the blazer, sandals & Radley bag.

And the best thing? I still have £50 letft to spend!

4) Things I’ll Put off until Tomorrow (30 Days of Lists)

13 May

Yesterday, Saturday, I put off:

Posting this update!

Planting courgette seeds in my allotment, as K wanted a wee before we got that far, so we all came home

Taking up K’s new school trousers

Delivering my Avon orders

Watching Thursday’s Planet Earth episode, as really I don’t want to see the baby grey whale calf being drowned by an orca pod.

3) Recipe for a Good Weekend (30 Days of Lists)

11 May

Sleeping in later than 7am.

Having a Grand Family Day Out with my daughters and husband.

Watching a good film together on the sofa.

Cooking and eating together.

No-one is grumpy.



Meerkat fun at Tropical World, Leeds

2) This Month’s Goals (30 days of lists)

10 May

For May 2012

Back in the mists of time, I learnt about SMART targets, as part of my mangement training. I actually still use this when thinking about my current life and what I want to achieve.

All goals must be:






We used this anacronym for goal setting for our teams, departments and ourselves. Now, most of my short-term goals are personal, but there is no point in setting them unless they are Specific (no waffle, they are clear) Measurable, Attainable (nothing like climb Everest or Swim with Dolphins, but they relate directly to day to day life) Relevant (they are necessary and won’t be out of date before they are achieved) and Timed (there is a start & end date, the end date can be adjusted, but only for a good reason & the goal is then adjusted to allow for this).

I had a think and these are my goals for this month:

Acquire more Avon customers

Decide on outfit for wedding I’m going to next month

Update my blog each day

Be less grumpy – take painkillers when needed for my back  and look at supplements for my appalling PMS.

I will review these at the end of the month.