Most kindergartners start the school year as 5-year-old bundles of locomotion. It's no wonder that many school districts hire one or more assistants to help support each kindergarten teacher and keep her from going bonkers. In public schools, the assistant's job usually requires at least a high school diploma, and some jobs require two years of college. In any district, you'll have your work cut out for you as a kindergarten teacher's assistant.
A teaching assistant helps the teacher plan and prepare lessons so she can hit the ground running each day. The assistant gets materials ready, including ordering or picking up supplies and making photocopies. A Jane-of-all trades, she makes sure that the necessary books, papers and craft items are ready for each task. At lesson time, she helps hand out materials or supervises students as they take materials out of cubbyholes or folders.
A kindergarten assistant helps the teacher prevent bedlam and create a friendly environment for learning. While the district and teacher normally make the rules, the assistant deals with students one-on-one and in groups to ensure they stay in line. For example, she calls out students who aren't participating or who forget to put materials away. When a student gets rebellious, she's sometimes the taskmaster, using consequences the teacher has decided on, such as a time-out or extra work.
An effective kindergarten assistant almost serves as the teacher's clone. At the teacher's direction, the assistant works with students one-on-one or in small groups, giving basic instruction and reinforcing skills such as counting or letters. While the teacher is giving a lesson, she circulates around the room, helping students who need extra attention. When most students have a lesson down pat, such as writing the numbers, she tutors students who are still having a hard time.
Clerk and Housekeeper
The kindergarten assistant is a combination clerk and classroom cleaner. She corrects student papers and records scores as the teacher directs. She helps with attendance and other district-mandated paperwork, such as parental permission slips for field trips. She helps tidy the classroom, maintain files and decorate the bulletin boards and classroom walls. Sometimes she might be like a member of the cleaning crew, scrubbing white boards and tables, and cleaning up spills, including cookie crumbs and bathroom accidents.
Life Skills Assistant
A kindergarten assistant also plays the role of the children's valet -- or parent. She helps students put on and take off their coats and gloves and tie shoelaces. She hands them tissues and helps wipe their noses. When students need a babysitter or an escort to the playground, the lunchroom or the restroom, she provides it. If the little darlings take the school bus home, she's on the job, making sure they get on the right bus.
The duties of a kindergarten teacher's assistant require the agility and strength of a jock. Keeping up with kindergartners requires you to crawl, kneel, bend, climb, push and pull. Some schools may set specific requirements, such as requiring that a kindergarten assistant to be able to lift 25 pounds. Although schools may make accommodations for assistants with disabilities, the essential tasks require you to mimic the movements of a 5-year-old.