Clear communication between the teacher and students is essential in any teaching position, but when you are a Lab TA or TA for a Professor you also need to effectively communicate with professors and other TAs. See below for one Lab TA’s experience navigating multiple types of communication during their first semester.
During the course of the semester as a TA, my experiences were a mix of finding solutions to academic problems and pushing myself out of my comfort zone in professional interactions. As a TA, I had to balance coursework, communication with professor regarding the coursework, the lab assignment workload, and deadlines and grading. I also had to help students understand the requirements of the lab and the do’s and don’ts for the lab assignments, and prepare lab materials for the students.
Quite a number of times I faced situations where lab assignments were a bit confusing to the students because of miscommunication. Sometimes the requirements were not properly addressed in the Lab Manual and the deadlines were not communicated properly. Always including the professor within the communication circle helped reduce the vagueness in assigning labs to the students.
Also, maintaining a uniform grading approach and splitting up the grading for the lab assignments helped to give clarity in the lab grading to the students. This enabled the students to get a picture of where sufficient work needs to be done in order to complete the assignments on time. Maintaining regular contact with other TAs helped me gain a clear idea of the general problems faced by the students and helped us to collaboratively eliminate those problems. For example, I was able to foresee issues related to the computer tools used for the Lab.
Meetings with other TAs and the professor organized regularly during the course helped to give a mindset of what can be contributed to the course work in terms of time, responsibility and skills and also a clear idea of the various opportunities that can be obtained in terms of training, experience and professional interactions. These interactions helped me to improve both my communication and technical skills. I found interactions during my TA office hours and the lab discussions to be the most rewarding part of my job.