So you applied to be a teaching assistant and got accepted. Now what? Being a teaching assistant can be very challenging but also very beneficial. Since you will be evaluated on your performance at the end of the semester, there are some things that you should keep in mind while performing your duties. Here are some useful hints to help keep you on track and keep doing your absolute best.
Tip #1: Attend Each Class: So many times, I have seen TAs show up to class to take attendance and then leave. When a student comes to their office hours to get help on something that was done in class, the TA is unprepared. As a TA, you are required to know exactly what went on during each class. You are also required to know all subject material so you can answer questions that students have. So, you better be prepared to answer those questions during office hours.
Tip #2: Check Your E-mail Twice Daily: You should check your e-mail at least twice a day just in case students are e-mailing you. Many times, students have questions about homework while they are doing it and are counting on your reply to finish their homework. So check your e-mail as often as you can, especially at night. At the end of the semester, your students are asked to evaluate your performance as a TA. Give them a reason to give you a good rating.
Tip #3: Give Proper Notice When Absent: If you are going to be absent from class or will not be able to attend your office hours, let both the professor and the students know as soon as you know. The professor may have been planning to use you in their discussion that day. If you don’t tell them you can’t make it, you could put them in a tight situation. Give at least a day’s notice. If you can give more notice, that would be even better. Make sure you send a mass e-mail to all your students when you can’t make it to your office hours.
Tip #4: Prepare for Presentations: There will be times when you will have to give lectures to your students. Being a TA is supposed to help you learn what it’s like to be a teacher, so this practice is almost always a requirement. The professor will give you the presentation assignment well ahead of time. The best advice I can give you is to use this time to prepare for it. Your students are going to be taking notes and using the information on tests, so you have to make sure that it’s accurate. Practice speaking in front of your friends. You want your students to listen to you just like they listen to the actual professor.
If you remember these tips as well as listen to the professor and follow his/her instructions, you should do fine as a teaching assistant. It won’t always be easy, but you will learn a lot and grow both as a student and as a person. Plus, you get paid every two weeks so you will have some money in your pocket for the semester.