The plight of the LSA

Recently it has really hit home to me about LSAs, and their role in the classroom, during experiences when I've been working in classrooms with teachers as their behaviour guide/coach.

In a recent class, while ostensibly acting as the Number 2, I asked some of the students to listen to what the teacher was saying.  In response, they looked at me with a snarl and one exclaimed

I’m not listening to you, you’re not my teacher!”

On that day and in that lesson, the teacher had really started well, with a strong on-line activity which was highly interactive.  He selected one of the challenging students to manage the activity – in charge of the mouse – and the student jumped at the chance to assume that responsibility.    We got off to a good start.

So far so good…..

The problems began when the lesson began ‘proper’.  I requested that bags were to be placed on the chair or the floor to allow space to work.  “You’re not my teacher” cried one of the students.  Turning to the others, who had started to move their bags, she said loudly “Don’t put your bags away, she’s not your teacher!”.

“No, I’m not your teacher today”, I replied, “but I am a member of staff and I have made a direct request.”

“We only take notice of our teacher,” came back the reply.

I turned quizzically to face the teacher, who said “Put your bags on the chair or floor please.”

With a smirk aimed in my direction, the students did comply.

It got me thinking; why do students feel this way?  If I’m lucky enough to have an LSA timetabled with me when I teach, I’m very clear with the students about the role they play in the class.  I tell them that if the LSA gives an instruction or makes a request, they are doing it on my behalf.  Seems fair, doesn't it?

But it doesn't appear to be the norm, nor is it easy to implement.  So how can we break down these barriers?  I often work in tandem on classroom management, but I have no impact at all on the learning.  The perception of the student is that I am ineffective and initially they disregard me.

So are LSAs powerless, and is that right?   What do you think?