What I Have Learned From Being a Teaching Assistant

This semester I was the teaching assistant (TA) for a 50 student undergraduate class. I had been a TA for a small seminar graduate course, but this was my first undergraduate class. I was excited and nervous at the start of the semester, and four months later my enthusiasm is still strong. While it is hard managing 50 students, keeping up with the team and individual assignments, and being attentive to individual needs, it is also fulfilling. I think it also helps when you enjoy working along side the professor.

Looking back at the semester, these are my main takeaways that I will carry with me into future teaching.

Learn who your students are. Knowing who your students are and being able to call them by name build relationships. You may only know half, but they appreciate the effort.

Give as much feedback as possible. To me the grade is one piece, but knowing where to make improvements for the next assignment is what matters most.

Give students the benefit of the doubt. My nature is to see the best in people. Assume intentions are good until proven wrong.

Be consistent. If the policy is no assignment will be taken after the deadline, see that policy through otherwise you create a see of confusion.

Be available to students. Whether this is after class or by email, lets students know they can come to you with questions and concerns. Also while it was time consuming to attend every class, students could ask me questions and I could be involved in the learning process.

Don’t be surprised when life happens. Have policies in place to manage late assignments and absences. Remove the gray area and have policies that encourage professionalism.

Provide experiential learning when possible. Students enjoy getting out of the class and not being lectured. Field trips are not easy to plan, but can complement course objective and get students excited.

Set aside time to only focus on the class. I would often try to work on the class, my own classes, and my research all in the same afternoon. It did not work well. I felt I dabbled in all of it, but none of it got my full attention.






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