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I'll have a TAship for my PhD program, so I'll be leading recitation sections and holding office hours. I've had a hard time maintaining the respect of classes for which I served as an undergrad TA in the past, especially as a short female social scientist with a babyface. I was also too friendly with my students and failed to create the kind of distance necessary to be an authority figure.

Wearing professional attire will make me look older, which should help. Any other tips for developing a professional relationship with students, one in which they actually do their work and think of me as an authority without dreading coming to class? What should I do in the first few sessions to establish this divide?

Thanks!

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I've now been a solo instructor for the last three semesters, so I know what you're going through. I'll be transitioning into a TA position this fall for my PhD program, and I'll be interested to see if I'll actual be a TA, or a lead instructor. But that's another thread!

Definitely use the Teaching & Learning Center, or whatever equivalent is at your institution. Typically, they'll have someone sit in on a few classes, and then present a confidential review of your pedagogy. Really, really helpful! They usually have ongoing teaching seminars as well.

How to get undergrads to take you serious, yet still enjoy class? Well, that's not an easy one. Kids today seem to think they're entitled to everything, and add to that the addiction to everything technology (Ipad, Ipod, smartphones, etc). No, I don't hate undergrads, it's just really, really tough to keep their attention. I was fortunate enough to teach classes of less than 40 students, so this might not apply... I constantly walk the class, engaging each student as I walk by. My student's know that I will call on everyone, even if they are the shy type. While I let them know that I don't necessarily expect them to have the right answer, I expect them to have some type of answer ("I don't know" isn't an acceptable answer).

I had the freedom to make my own rules, so cellphones and laptops were banned in all my classes. While students hate this at first, they see within a few weeks that it really does add to the interaction within the class. My PPs were always available before class, and they were encouraged to bring to class and follow along. I would make my quizzes directly from the PP and in-class discussion.

HUMOR!!!!! It can only go so far, but humor is truly something you have to have in the classroom. I think that self deprecation can be helpful sometimes, but a quick wit and some good jokes help lighten the mood, as well keep kids attention on you.

Professional attire: You hit this on the head. I suffer from "baby face" syndrome as well, so I wear a full blazer, slacks and nice shoes to class. As soon as I step in, they know I'm the authority, and know to respect me. I balance this out with letting them call me by my first name. This type of flexibility is something you learn as you go, but also based on your own teaching style.

Getting to know student's names is also a requirement. I use the "Attendance" app on my Iphone to take attendance. The app is quite superb, but also allows you take a picture of each student. It takes a couple weeks to get all the names down (I suck at remembering names), but being able to call on a student specifically shows the student that I'm engaged enough in the class to learn their names. Some schools will allow you to print a copy of the roll with picture of the students. If your school doesn't provide this, make sure to ask your administrator to make sure you can take pictures of each student (fun legal issues can ensue).

Lastly, take a breath and realize the students are as nervous as you. You will never master teaching, and if you do think that someday, then you have lost the true desire that pushes us to be better teachers. you're not perfect, and they shouldn't expect perfection. Have fun in your classes!

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What should I do in the first few sessions to establish this divide?

For starters, hand out a mean-sounding syllabus on the first day of class. :D

I'm not sure being short has anything to do with lack of respect. (My advisor is short, and all the undergrads I talk to say they are scared of her!) Having a babyface hasn't stopped me too much. (Admittedly, now that I'm pushing 40, my 'babyface' makes me look 25, which is not a bad thing.) It's a matter of having presence, I think, and that has only a smidgen to do with looks.

If you don't want your students to dread coming to class:

(1) Make sure your lectures are WELL-PREPARED...don't wander hither and yon (figuratively speaking) as you try to lecture. I don't mean that you have to read word-for-word (which would also make the students dread your class), but rather that you should have a good, solid outline of what you want to cover.

(2) Make sure you "change gears" every 10-15 minutes...e.g. don't just sit there and lecture, lecture, lecture or people will fall asleep. Do an activity (which can be a 'thought activity'), have a demonstration, have a discussion, or--if all else fails--tell a story which is somewhat relevant to the class.

(3) One of the things that will really help is if you learn all of your students' names. Some of the profs here who do the big lectures are amazing at this. They wander around before lecture starts to find out what students' names are (early in the semester) or say hi and ask how it is going (later on, after they know the names). I've never been good at names, so a 250-person lecture class might be beyond me. But I did manage to learn all of my students' names in my labs (~24 students) by week 6 of the semester. Don't just learn their names, call them by name frequently: "Mark, do you have a question?" "Yes, Jane, how can I help you?"

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(1) Make sure your lectures are WELL-PREPARED...don't wander hither and yon (figuratively speaking) as you try to lecture. I don't mean that you have to read word-for-word (which would also make the students dread your class), but rather that you should have a good, solid outline of what you want to cover.

Don't just cover what the chapter covers. Hit upon the main points, but include your expertise and personal experiences. The students are not just looking for book info, but for practical, life experiences.

(2) Make sure you "change gears" every 10-15 minutes...e.g. don't just sit there and lecture, lecture, lecture or people will fall asleep. Do an activity (which can be a 'thought activity'), have a demonstration, have a discussion, or--if all else fails--tell a story which is somewhat relevant to the class.

Excellent point! Not that you want to be Prof. ADD, but keep them guessing what'll happen next. Don't start class with lecture every time, but maybe small group activity, then lecture, or vise versa. Students attention span is quite short, so keep moving through various stages of interaction with them.

(3) One of the things that will really help is if you learn all of your students' names. Some of the profs here who do the big lectures are amazing at this. They wander around before lecture starts to find out what students' names are (early in the semester) or say hi and ask how it is going (later on, after they know the names). I've never been good at names, so a 250-person lecture class might be beyond me. But I did manage to learn all of my students' names in my labs (~24 students) by week 6 of the semester. Don't just learn their names, call them by name frequently: "Mark, do you have a question?" "Yes, Jane, how can I help you?"

Again, see my reply above about this.

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The above replies are good advice, but with due respect, I'm not sure they apply directly to the question. They seem to be directed more at being a full-fledged instructor or starting prof, whereas the OP will be a TA. In the first instance, I doubt this will involve lecturing, unless my experiences as a TA were completely out of the ordinary. As the OP says, she will be leading 'recitation sections', which I assume means discussion sections. The very pedagogical point of these are to allow the students to actively engage with the material, something which they can't do in the larger lecture section. Yes, obviously TAs need to be prepared. I had summaries of the readings and some major points I wanted to get across, but it's the students' opportunity to show they've done the work and engage with it and each other, not an opportunity for the TA to give a lecture. I talked perhaps five minutes at the beginning, and would of course intervene when discussion strayed to make sure we covered the main points, but otherwise allowed students as much opportunity as possible to have their say.

As for positive advice, I'd say just the fact of your being a grad student rather than an undergrad will help. I think in general people will tend not to respect authority when that authority is, by some measure, 'equal' to them. I don't know if it's true in your situation, but these may have been fellow undergrads whom you've taken classes with, are friends with, etc. That fact alone will tend to diminish your ability to project authority over them. You need to be friendly, that is, genial and generally sympathetic, without being 'overfriendly'. I'd say the latter includes not getting involved in their personal lives, limiting your conversations with them to academic matters and pleasantries. I know some TAs who have become much more involved than this, but I wouldn't recommend it. If there's an attendance/participation component to the course grade, it doesn't hurt to remind them of this occasionally, if you're having trouble getting them to do work. I've been lucky with that; I TAed at a great school where the students were almost all engaged and, at least, not disruptive. In terms of the first few sessions, you need to make your expectations for behaviour and work crystal clear, verbally if not in writing. And yes, what you wear will help; dress may seem like a superficial thing, but I think people's impressions of others are formed in significant part by what they look like, especially what they wear. Dressing professionally or at least not casually will communicate to your students that you care and are serious about your job and your discipline, and that you think the section aspect of the course is important. Dressing casually leaves the opposite impression, whether it's warranted or not.

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I was working as a TA at 21 years old, and some of my students were older than me. But I believe it's all about your attitude and how you carry yourself. I treat it like the job it is--I show up prepared, and I do not care if the students "like" me. It is a relationship of mutual respect--you show up prepared, you do your job well, and you don't take any crap from students. Also, I keep a very firm line between myself and my students by not socializing with them outside of class. You can always try to keep your class fun and interesting, by having engaging lesson plans, but you can't let them get away with anything like showing up late or whatnot. It's rather like dealing with children, IMHO.

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HUMOR!!!!! It can only go so far, but humor is truly something you have to have in the classroom. I think that self deprecation can be helpful sometimes, but a quick wit and some good jokes help lighten the mood, as well keep kids attention on you.

So true...I don't TA, but work with undergrads a lot and will be supervising a staff of them soon. Humor is what I use to connect with them. I use self deprecation too - it helps to show them that you don't take yourself so seriously, and I think they will respect you more for it. Just don't over do it - fine line there.

Also, I would suggest being more strict when you start out with your class, and see how it goes. Everybody wants to be laid back and cool, which is ok if you have mature undergrads who can handle it. BUT, if you have immature undergrads and you let them run wild at the beginning, it is soooo hard to reign them back in when you have a Lord of the Flies situation going on. I would say be more structured at the beginning, and see how they deal with it. Give them a little more rope as the quarter/semester goes on, and if they hang themselves with it, pull back. If not, then you can ease up :)

Good luck!

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Things that have helped me:

1. Stoicism, at least for the first month or two.

2. Not laughing at/acknowledging poor behavior during class, unless it is disruptive. If it seems like a real problem, I talk to the student after class.

3. Ask for help. Do not be afraid to involve your supervisor (the instructor) in any problems. Tackle them head-on, ASAP. You will be glad you did. And your supervisor will want you to do this.

4. Lay out your expectations, clearly, at the very beginning of the course. Do not make exceptions unless you absolutely must. This includes holding regular office hours, and sticking to them, unless you absolutely must accommodate some sort of scheduling issue with a student who you are sure cannot come at the scheduled time.

5. Bust the cheaters. Immediately. (After spelling out expectations regarding academic honesty, of course). You will be glad you set an example about what is acceptable. My first semester, I was amazed how many students cheat. I can honestly say that I have never cheated, so it sort of took me by surprise.

6. Remember that it is your responsibility to provide a welcoming, accepting, encouraging learning environment for all of your students. Recognize that this is not possible if another student is disrupting this atmosphere. When you are afraid of being the bad guy, remember that by ignoring a distraction/disruption, you are not being fair to your students who really try and want to be there.

7. Appreciate the students who make an effort. They will get you through when you are overwhelmed by the students who don't.

8. There will be bad days. Take a deep breath. Have a stiff drink. Talk to the other TAs. It is a learning process.

Good luck!

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Things that have helped me:

1. Stoicism, at least for the first month or two.

2. Not laughing at/acknowledging poor behavior during class, unless it is disruptive. If it seems like a real problem, I talk to the student after class.

3. Ask for help. Do not be afraid to involve your supervisor (the instructor) in any problems. Tackle them head-on, ASAP. You will be glad you did. And your supervisor will want you to do this.

4. Lay out your expectations, clearly, at the very beginning of the course. Do not make exceptions unless you absolutely must. This includes holding regular office hours, and sticking to them, unless you absolutely must accommodate some sort of scheduling issue with a student who you are sure cannot come at the scheduled time.

5. Bust the cheaters. Immediately. (After spelling out expectations regarding academic honesty, of course). You will be glad you set an example about what is acceptable. My first semester, I was amazed how many students cheat. I can honestly say that I have never cheated, so it sort of took me by surprise.

6. Remember that it is your responsibility to provide a welcoming, accepting, encouraging learning environment for all of your students. Recognize that this is not possible if another student is disrupting this atmosphere. When you are afraid of being the bad guy, remember that by ignoring a distraction/disruption, you are not being fair to your students who really try and want to be there.

7. Appreciate the students who make an effort. They will get you through when you are overwhelmed by the students who don't.

8. There will be bad days. Take a deep breath. Have a stiff drink. Talk to the other TAs. It is a learning process.

Good luck!

Great points; I agree with all of them. The only thing I'd add involves #5. You'll want to be careful about this. At least where and when I TAed, it wasn't our direct responsibility to enforce academic honesty. If we suspected it, we would refer it to the prof, who would deal with it.

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Great points; I agree with all of them. The only thing I'd add involves #5. You'll want to be careful about this. At least where and when I TAed, it wasn't our direct responsibility to enforce academic honesty. If we suspected it, we would refer it to the prof, who would deal with it.

Ah, I envy you. I got plenty of (unwanted) practice with this during my first semester. While the supervisor was extremely available and willing to help, hu pretty much made it clear that hu expected us (the TAs) to take control of situations like these, under hu's supervision. It was stressful but a learning experience.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I was working as a TA at 21 years old, and some of my students were older than me. But I believe it's all about your attitude and how you carry yourself. I treat it like the job it is--I show up prepared, and I do not care if the students "like" me. It is a relationship of mutual respect--you show up prepared, you do your job well, and you don't take any crap from students. Also, I keep a very firm line between myself and my students by not socializing with them outside of class. You can always try to keep your class fun and interesting, by having engaging lesson plans, but you can't let them get away with anything like showing up late or whatnot. It's rather like dealing with children, IMHO.

Absolutely! I began TAing at 22, and I had seniors or non-trads who were my age or older, and that definitely put me in an awkward position. My first semester, I had a student who insisted on being my buddy, and would invite me to dances and hookah bars (no joke). The thing is, you have to remember that even if your students are your age, you still have more experience (academically, at least) than they do. And even though you may not be an expert in your field, you are more of an expert than they are. This alone should help you to add some professional distance and garner respect. The fact that you already have a degree doesn't hurt either.

As for the classroom itself, my advice may not apply to you if you won't be in charge of the course. At my school, or perhaps just in my department, TAs are in charge of the entire course. We design the syllabus and assignments (though the dept. does provide examples, and we have a curriculum wiki for peer support), and are responsible for all lectures, exams, etc. However, if your job will simply be to lead a discussion, or present a lecture, then you will need to focus solely on how you present yourself. Here are some strategies I use:

1) Avoid the "dead zone" in front of the podium or desk, or whatever surface you put your lecture notes on. I do this for two reasons. First, walking around the room, or at least from left to right, means that there is activity at the front of the room, which means the students are more likely to engage in the discussion, because you are physically engaged with your presentation of the material. It also allows you to give equal time to more students. Most of the rooms I've taught in have a lecture podium to one side of the room, meaning that if I stayed there, only the students on that side of the classroom would feel involved in the discussion. If I wander the room, I'm able to actively engage more students, making the experience a bit more personal for each student. Also, if you allow laptops in your classes, walking the room can help limit the amount of time they spend on Facebook. Second, walking away from your lecture notes tells the students that you know the material; if you didn't know what you were discussing, you'd have to have your notes close by. I doubt students are consciously aware of this, but I do think they believe that an instructor who isn't tethered to his/her notes is more comfortable with and more knowledgeable about the material.

2) Break the ice before each class with a learning activity. I play "big word hangman" with my students before class each day. Since I teach English, I use this as an opportunity to expand and refine their vocabulary. When possible, I try to use words that I know will appear in upcoming readings; this allows my students to practice what they have learned. It's actually quite amazing how much undergrads (and grads too, I imagine) still enjoy hangman. Plus, it's fun to write a word like "schadenfreude" on the board. :D

3) Be authoritative without being an authoritarian. You'll need to carry yourself professionally, and try not to let your insecurity show if you feel nervous about being at the front of the room, or feel out of place as the authority figure in the room. Still, you can do things that will demonstrate your position over the students without being feared or hated for it. For one, make sure that your syllabus is clear, strikes the appropriate tone, and sets specific rules and consequences for broken rules. The next step is to enforce the syllabus; students will know when you're letting things slide, and at that point it's almost impossible to regain your control. If you're the one writing the syllabus, make sure you don't create a rule that you aren't comfortable enforcing...the last thing you need is to feel guilty for punishing a student. The same principle applies to classroom management; be consistent in policing your students when it comes to text messages or talking out of turn or other disruptive behavior. If you call out student A for texting, but ignore student B, you'll lose respect in the eyes of at least one student.

4) Have fun. Students, in my experience, have less respect for instructors who are too strict or too monotonous in their teaching style. Good teachers know how to strike a balance between lecturing and listening, and you'll need to do both if you want to keep the classroom dynamic on your side. And don't be afraid to give "real world" examples for complex material. I have used LOLcats and movie/TV references as teaching tools, and with great success.

The trick is to engage your students while still making it clear that you're the leader. They need to feel like they can contribute to the class, but also that the class has some structure to it. You definitely don't need a free-for-all discussion, and you definitely don't want everyone on their phones or laptops ignoring what you're saying. Think about the best classes you've taken, and the best teachers you've had, and try to model their actions.

Hope that helps!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm leading a seminar series for the new TAs in my department this fall, and I recently wrote up this list of tips on how to deal with some of the logistical aspects of TAing (taking attendance, grading participation, etc). Hope it's helpful! http://marginalia84.blogspot.com/2011/07/tips-for-new-tas-notebook-method.html

One strategy that worked well for me as a new TA was to think about how my favorite profs and TAs from my undergrad days handled their classes, and then to act accordingly. I also second the point that a few people have made about the importance of mixing it up every 15-20 minutes; in my 50-minute TA sessions, I try to plan at least 3 different kinds of activity so that I'm not just left asking "So... what did you guys think of the readings?"

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On the 'mixing it up' every 15 minutes: I don't know, that brings to my mind visions of kindergarten... Not that I don't understand your point, but I've found that undergrads are smart enough and mature enough to maintain productive discussions for 50 minutes, at least. Your prompts don't have to be so vague as "what did you think about the readings?" but specific questions about an author's arguments and whatnot. Granted, I was helped in this because the prof and I prepared three questions on the readings beforehand which would be the foundation of discussion, and the fact that, frankly, I was at a top university with, for tbe most part, interested, motivated, and highly achieving students. I suppose that makes a big difference in terms of structuring sections.

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I've found changing gears every 15-20 minutes to be vital; otherwise, everyone's face gets a glazed look and there's a lot of shifting around in seats.

For example, I often find my 50-minute class periods structured as follows: starting with (1) some kind of discussion or lecture, moving to (2) application (whether it's an activity completed with a partner, a group discussion, or individual writing) followed by (3) more discussion, based on the students' findings from their activity/group discussion/writing.

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On the 'mixing it up' every 15 minutes: I don't know, that brings to my mind visions of kindergarten... Not that I don't understand your point, but I've found that undergrads are smart enough and mature enough to maintain productive discussions for 50 minutes, at least. Your prompts don't have to be so vague as "what did you think about the readings?" but specific questions about an author's arguments and whatnot. Granted, I was helped in this because the prof and I prepared three questions on the readings beforehand which would be the foundation of discussion, and the fact that, frankly, I was at a top university with, for tbe most part, interested, motivated, and highly achieving students. I suppose that makes a big difference in terms of structuring sections.

I think it really depends on who is teaching or leading the discussion. I'm just recalling a few experiences I've had. In one of my upper level majors only writing class, it was totally centered around discussion 90% of the time. It pretty much ended up with only a few people speaking, and the prof herself seemed really unprepared and unsure of what to ask or how to get things going. There was lots and lots of really awkward silence. Contrast this with a history course I took that was structured the same way. We spent most of the class discussing readings and the topics of the day, and this was intertwined with the lecture. He had a very dynamic and charismatic personality, really knew the subject he was lecturing on, and he was great at getting everyone interested, involved and contributing. If you find a teaching style that works for you and your students, go with it!

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Unfortunately, I have no useful advice to offer one's physical appearance and comportment. For better and for worse, I am often perceived as a serious, even fierce, person. Grad students and undergraduates tend to fall in line when I am focused on the agenda of learning.

One of the best pieces of advice I got was to my outside field in my institution's school of education. Not only did I luck out by working in a sub-discipline that enhanced by understanding of the craft of history as well as one of my primary research interests, I also learned a lot about teaching from a senior professor of educational psychology.

I also benefited from having a very close relationship with the professor in my department who was tasked with training all teaching assistants. (Years later, he was tasked to train all teaching assistants for the college's graduate program.)

What I learned from the former was to discuss course materials in small blocks. Based on this guidance, I only sought to cover five to seven basic points in any discussion section. I also adopted the education professor's practice of giving out evaluation forms at the end of every class meeting. While most students would not fill out these forms, those who did sometimes gave solid feedback that allowed me to make adjustments for the next class. Additionally, this professor provided several valuable insights.

  • First, teaching is a domain of knowledge that is distinctly different from one's field of study.
  • Second, it takes years of experience and directed practice to become a decent teacher.
  • Third, a teacher's primary responsibility is to support a student's efforts to reach her goals (not yours, hers).
  • Fourth, if a motivated student fails to reach her goals, it is the teacher's fault.
  • Fifth, dealing with students is a time consuming, psychologically challenging experience. (He often used the metaphor of 'abused children.')

    As for the mentor in my department, he taught me many valuable lessons.

    • First and foremost was the importance of handing out a document laying out the general objectives of the rules of the game.
    • Second, the value of holding the line on grades (he was part of a broader effort to curtail grade inflation).
    • Third, being accessible to students when scheduling office hours, and, perhaps most importantly,
    • Fourth, a professional academic's primary responsibility is to teach. (This view is controversial and his career suffered because of it.)

    To these pieces of guidance, I tossed in bits and pieces from previous instructors whom I'd admired. First, I made a point of emphasis of learning all the students' names by the second class meeting. To facilitate this process, towards the end of the first section meeting, I took Polaroids of each student and had them print their names. The next several days, I used the photos as flash cards. Thereafter, if I misremembered a student's name, I paid that student a modest fine out of my own pocket.

    Second, I made myself accessible. To help this process, I collected information on the students' class schedules and arranged my office hours for when most of them had free time. If students needed to miss class discussion, I'd let them make up for missed time during office hours. In the lead up to graded assignment deadlines/ test dates, I arranged additional office hours and study groups around the students' schedules. Moreover, I made it clear that they could submit to me as many drafts of essays beforehand as they'd wished. I made sure they understood that for this practice to work, they'd have to make sure they gave me enough time to turn drafts around.

    Third, I made it clear that I was their advocate in relation to the professor for whom I worked. Time and again, I would urge them to put me in the position to make the case at the end of the semester that a boarder line grade should be bumped up. This approach really helped students who may have slacked off at the beginning of the semester (sometimes for legitimate reasons) and were willing to make up the difference through hard work.

    Fourth, I offered "extra credit" assignments that were immediately relevant to the course materials. (As the structure of these opportunities made clear that students would really have to earn the extra credit--in the form of an oral exam--I got very few takers.)

    Sixth, for those students who expressed an interest in attending graduate school (in any field) or getting professional training (in law or medicine), I would "prep" them on ways to establish a relationship with a professor that could lead to a favorable letter of recommendation. I also offered to support their applications to the best of my abilities.

    But most of all, I made it clear to students that they were going to get the grade they earned, that they would earn the grade they got, and if they didn't like their grade, they had no one but themselves to blame.

    In my experience, the upside of this approach was that it facilitated an environment of learning and intellectual growth for those students willing to work very hard. It also gave me confidence that no student could make a sustainable argument that I did not care or that I did not work as hard as I could.

    My approach had several downsides. First, it required a lot of time. For certain two week intervals during a semester, I would arrive at campus at seven am and leave at two am the following morning for days at a stretch. (Sometimes, having insomnia is an advantage.) Second, I received sharply worded feedback from students who did not care to be held to well defined standards or were uncomfortable with the notion of individual accountability or just don't like the topic of the class, or history in general.

    Finally, I learned through back channels that this approach encouraged a certain level of resentment among fellow t.a.'s who did not consider teaching a priority--even though were getting paid to do it). This was not an issue for me as I wasn't working for them and I did not socialize with them. However, if your program has a number of graduate students that are ambivalent about teaching and you socialize with them, it might be an issue for you.

    HTH.

Edited by Sigaba
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  • 3 months later...

Sixth, for those students who expressed an interest in attending graduate school (in any field) or getting professional training (in law or medicine), I would "prep" them on ways to establish a relationship with a professor that could lead to a favorable letter of recommendation. I also offered to support their applications to the best of my abilities.

I WISH someone had done this for me! I'm getting ready to apply to grad schools and would love to be able to pick from a list of 6-10 profs who could write me a strong LOR. Could you expand on this a little? What are your suggestions?

Thanks!

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I WISH someone had done this for me! I'm getting ready to apply to grad schools and would love to be able to pick from a list of 6-10 profs who could write me a strong LOR. Could you expand on this a little? What are your suggestions?

Thanks!

phetish--

As a T.A., I would tell undergraduates to develop a brief list of talking points related to the course materials and then go to a professor's office and have a relaxed conversation. When I could, I would give the professor a "head's up" so he'd know who was coming, why, and what I knew of the student's strengths and shortcomings. The purpose of this first meeting was to build an undergraduate's confidence and to start building rapport with the professor as soon as possible.

From there, I would pester the undergraduate to keep visiting the professor. I would also give that student's assignments an additional once over so he or she could work on writing skills. Meanwhile, I would bombard that student with additional optional reading opportunities that were related to the student's interests within the class.

If a student gravitated towards an area outside the subject of the class, I'd direct that student's attention to professors who might make a better fit.

If time permitted and the rapport was good, I'd offer to take a look at a student's writing sample and/or LoR. (I basically insisted on a two day window.)

For me, the big picture was about (1) getting students to have more self confidence so they could take themselves and their work as students more seriously, (2) getting them to understand that sustained academic excellence requires a student to take an active role in his or her education, and (3) getting them to understand that I was there to support them in achieving the goals they defined.

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  • 3 weeks later...

What a fantastic thread with amazing advice. It's so encouraging to see people out there who are enthusiastic and motivated to make the classroom an engaging interaction where students and instructors learn. You all have really provided golden tips here! Having read this thread, I can already feel myself evaluating what I do and changing things. Thank you!

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