Get Organized Before Discussion


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Preparing for Weekly Discussions

You may find yourself one of few Teaching Assistants in a course. For larger classes, you may find the course has a larger number of Teaching Assistants with a lead/head TA. Each professor has his/her own style and methods for managing Teaching Assistants throughout the semester, but it's up to each individual TA to prepare for weekly discussion meetings.

Before you meet your students, here are some things to keep in mind:

Do your homework! While you may have led a discussion section for the same class last semester, it's still important to prepare for each new semester and group of students.

Make lesson plans - but be flexible. Think about "What do I want my students to learn today?" Estimate how much time each part of your lesson will take - but be ready to be flexible in case you have time left over or in case you run out of time before you finish everything you'd planned.

Ask for advice. Ask other TA's what they have planned for that week's discussion. Check with the professor to make sure you're focusing on what he/she feels is most important for students to understand.

Communicate with the Professor and other TA's

Know what is expected of you. Make sure that you're clear about what the professor's expectations are for the TA's in his/her course. Maintain a balance between your own studies and your teaching responsibilities. (More about "Roles & Responsibilities as a TA")

Keep in touch throughout the semester. Some professors like to meet with their TA's weekly, while others only check in around midterms and finals. Even if your professor only formally meets up with TA’s a couple of times a year, try to stay in touch so you can get feedback from the professor about what you’re doing in discussions, and so you can let the professor know if there is material that students are having a particularly difficult time with. Most professors will be grateful for the feedback they might not be hearing from students.

Being a TA isn't just about paying for school. You have an enormous responsibility as a TA – you have the power to inspire students about a topic they thought was completely uninteresting, and you also have the power to drive a student away from a topic he/she might have been thinking about as a major. Whatever you do in class as a TA is also going to reflect on the course and the subject matter, so act accordingly!!!

Using Classroom Equipment

Arrive early and make sure everything works. Yes, we all have had or will have the experience of arriving to show a film and the VCR doesn’t work, or we’ll try to use PowerPoint and the projector won’t turn on. Try to arrive early for class to check everything out, just in case – but if things don’t work, don’t panic! Most buildings have a “help number” for technology issues…but you should always have a back-up plan, just in case!

Post notes/assignments on Blackboard. There is a lot of discussion about whether posting notes on Blackboard discourages classroom attendance. Discuss concerns with the professor and other TA’s, and make a decision about how you’ll deal with posting information on Blackboard.

Blackboard can be a great tool for TA’s – from posting grades, to online discussion forums, to providing additional materials you can’t hand out in class. Take advantage of technology! (More about "Teaching with Technology")

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