Worst Case Scenarios

The first day of leading your discussion session will most likely cause a certain amount of stress, even for the most skilled of TAs. No matter how prepared you think you are, unexpected challenges lurk around every corner! To help quell fears of the unknown, the following are 7 different scenarios (based on actual TA experiences). At the end of each unanticipated and nerve-racking first day discussion session scenario, you are presented with two potential outcomes. Choose your fate wisely!

Scenario # 1: “Another Victim of Flu Season”

This afternoon, you are going to lead your first discussion for the Microeconomics class. You prepared a nice lecture that requires a lot of enthusiasm to present. Unfortunately when you woke up this morning, you felt dizzy and drowsy and could not move out of bed. Oh no! You are sick. What do you do??
You tell yourself not to worry! You can handle this.
You make yourself a hot cup of tea.

Scenario # 2: “Los Angeles Traffic Strikes Again!”

You are well prepared for your first discussion session today and can not wait to see your new students. You leave your home at the usual time, which will get you to your class 15 minutes early. Everything is going smoothly, until suddenly there is a three-vehicle accident right in front of you on the freeway! The accident is blocking all lanes and there is no way for you to exit the freeway anytime soon. The bad news is your class will start in 25 minutes. What do you do??
You are optimistic that emergency vehicles will appear soon and clear the highway.
While you are waiting for emergency vehicles to clear the road, you sit and watch the driver next to you yell into her cell phone.

Scenario # 3: “Is the Class Behind Door #1 or Door #2?”

You are at school and ready to go to class. The classroom is in the AHF building, but you realize that you are not sure of the room number. You have only left yourself 5 minutes to get to class. What do you do??
Stop running!
On your way to the building, you stop at the library.

Scenario # 4: “One is Truly the Loneliest Number”

You are excited to be teaching your first day of discussion session! You get to the classroom and set-up for your lecture. It is now 10 minutes after class should have begun and no students have appeared. What do you do??
You wonder how this can happen on the first day of the class.
You think, “Everyone is in the wrong room but me”!

Scenario # 5: “If There Is No Key, Is There a Way?”

You have prepared for weeks to present a nice first discussion session. Your lecture is polished. You have a syllabus for every student. You are healthy and the weather is great! Everything is perfect! Nothing can go wrong…until you discover the door is locked. What do you do??
You look at the beautiful day around you.
You locate the nearest phone.

Scenario # 6: “Are YOU Talking to ME?”

Today, you are leading your first discussion for Oceanography class. Your are a graduate student in Molecular Biology and therefore, a bit nervous about being a TA for a subject on which you possess limited knowledge. During the course of your carefully prepared lecture, a student raises her hand and asks you a question that is beyond your knowledge of the subject and has not been covered in the formal lecture. What do you do??
You have NO idea what the answer could be.
You are seconds from going into complete panic mode.

Scenario # 7: “The Case of the Missing Presentation”

On your first day of leading discussion session, you arrive at the designated classroom 15 minutes before class begins. Relieved that you have left enough time to get organized and write a few things on the board, you connect your computer to the projector to bring up your presentation…and your presentation is nowhere to be found! You have a copy of the presentation on your home computer and contemplate driving back to your apartment. You know that it takes 30 minutes to get back to your place and you only have 14 minutes before class starts. What do you do???
You sit back and smile to yourself.
You embrace the adventurous side of being a TA.

To be prepared for other unpredicted situations, such as earthquakes and suspicious persons, check out USC’s emergency guidelines:
What To Do In A Case of Emergency

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 License.