Delineate Appropriate Boundaries Between TAs And Students

To delineate the boundary of TA-Student relationship clearly, you should…

a. Communicate professional responsibilities clearly.

b. Conduct yourself in a professional and friendly manner.

c. Develop strategies to handle situations where the student crossed the boundary.

Earlier, you learned that it's a good idea to get to know your students on the first day. Here's an example of how you should NOT present yourself on the first day:

Clearly, the TA in this scenario seemed friendly, but in a very unprofessional manner. Inappropriate comments may make students feel uncomfortable, and you may lose your students' respect. Not a good idea!

Take a quiz to test your TAs’ knowledge of professional boundaries!

Question 1:

It is your responsibility as a TA to communicate with your students about what your role is and what they can expect of you.
A. True.
B. False.

Question 2:

Which of the followings is appropriate?
A. You should always be mindful of what you say and try avoid sexually- or racially- sensitive slurs.
B. You should always say what you want.

Question 3:

Are consensual romantic or sexual relationship with students acceptable?
A. Yes.
B. No

Question 4:

How should you handle a large volume of students emails while maintaining your personal life?
A. Reply to some and ignore some.
B. It is important to respond to students email in a timely manner. However, if you happen to be extremely busy during that day, simply write a short note telling the student that you will get back to him/her in a bit.

Question 5:

If there are conflicts between students and professor, what should you do?
A. If the situation is sensitive and intense, you should direct it to the attention of your department.
B. Always stand on the side of the professor.

Question 6:

Should you should avoid inquiring about a student's personal information such as immigration, marital and financial status etc.?
A. True.
B. False.

Question 7:

If a student is behaving or talking disrespectfully and disruptively in class…
A. Be nice and tolerate it.
B. Ask the student to stop and inform the student that you will meet with him/her after class.

Question 8:

Should you receive any expensive gifts from your students?
A. Sure, why not.
B. Decline to accept.

Question 9:

How much time should you spend on your work as a Full-time (50%) TA?
A. 15-20 hours per week.
B. 30-35 hours per week.

Question 10:

If a student asked to meet with you in a bar, what should you do?
A. Don't accept; try to reschedule it.
B. Simply accommodate his/her request.

Q & A

Q: How can I impose professional boundaries without alienating students?

A: It is important for you to state your professional responsibilities clearly at the beginning of the semester. Over the semester, act consistently according to the rules and boundaries you have established. For instance, as a lab TA, you may not be responsible for lecturing. If students have inquiry about the lecture, gently let them know that you are not able to address his/her concern and direct him/her to the professor.

Q: What should I do if a student requests private paid tutoring (beyond office hours)?

A: As a TA, you are generally not supposed to provide private paid tutoring to a student in your class to avoid conflict of interest. Let the student know that you can assist him during office hours and, if time allows, set up appointment with him/her. However, providing private paid tutoring may violate university policy. Also, you can suggest the student to send an email to contact the graduate advisor of your department to see if there is another graduate students who would be able to provide tutoring for him/her.

Q: Should I give out my cell or home phone number?

A: Depends on how comfortable you are with that. Generally, it is recommended that you give students your office phone number.

Q: What should I do if my students request a review session at the end of semester yet I am extremely busy with my own studies and research?

A: If holding a review section is not within your responsibilities, you can politely let your students know that you have lots of work on hand and are not able to do it. Discuss with your professor to see if there are any alternative solutions.

Q: What should I do if a student is absent from my session without providing legitimate documentation as required by the professor?

A: Ask your student for the documentation when he or she returns. If he or she are still unable to provide it, you may inform the professor. It is not your responsibility as a TA to call up the student's parents or the Student Health Center to seek the required information.

Useful References

Graduate Assistant Handbook:

University Policies:

USC's Center for Excellence in Teaching "Working with Students" online module:

Solutions to Quiz

Question 1:

A. Yay! You're right!

B. Oops! Remember, it is your responsibility as a TA to communicate with your students about what your role is and what they can expect of you.

Question 2:

A. Great job!

B. Oops! Remember, always be cautious about what you say and how you speak.

Question 3:

A. NO! You are not supposed to have any romantic or sexual relationship with your students even with mutual consensus.

B. You got it!

Question 4:

A. It's important to respond to students in timely manner. Simply write a short note, telling the student that you will get back to him/her in a bit. .

B. Nice!

Question 5:

A. Excellent approach!

B. Don't take sides. Inform the department if the situation is sensitive and intense.

Question 6:

A. That's right!

B. Incorrect. You should avoid asking for that information.

Question 7:

A. That's not right. As a TA you have the responsibility to make sure that everyone in the classroom is well-respected and should not let a student disrupt the class.

B. Bravo!

Question 8:

A. That's not quite right. You should avoid receiving expensive gift from your student to avoid potential suspicion of bribery.

B. Good!

Question 9:

A. That's right!

B. As a 50% TA, your work week is 15-20 hours.

Question 10:

A. Marvelous!

B. Try to reschedule it to a on-cmapus sight during school hours.

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