Believe it or not, the way an instructor occupies a classroom space sends volumes of unconsciously received communication to students. Thoughtfully locating oneself within the room is a great tool for encouraging specific kinds of student behavior. For example, instructors often lecture while standing in front of a projector screen or white board, and sometimes become so comfortable there that they rarely shift position. To change things up, try walking between student desks or around the back of the room as you talk. This can break students out of their own “comfort zones” and prompt more participation (plus it can discourage texting or using laptops for entertainment during class).
To Stand or not to Stand: That is the Question.
More than likely, all instructors will spend at least a portion of the semester standing. After all, it is difficult to write on the board or operate the computer sitting down. But should one always stand? Whether to stand or sit in front of their class is a common location dilemma faced by TAs. There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods—hopefully the following testimonies will help you decide what's best for you (or perhaps encourage you to try something new).
Pro-Standing Standing in class conveys authority. When you stand and your students sit, you are placed in the position of power. You are in control of the class. You have the ability to move around, to make lectures or discussions more dynamic. Standing can also help you handle nerves---when you move around you are less conscious of everyone's eyes on you than if you are sitting and unable to move from one spot. Sitting can be awkward and overly casual, leading students view you more as their peer than their instructor. See why one new TA prefers standing to sitting:
Pro-Sitting Sitting creates a relaxed atmosphere in the classroom, encouraging class discussion. Students can be intimidated when you stand in front or hover over them, making them feel less comfortable contributing to class.
TA Testimony—"Early in the semester, I found that my morning class often did not have much to say as long as I stood in the front of the room, but when I sat and talked, they suddenly became much more talkative."
TAs tend to sit one of two ways—in front of the class, or in a discussion circle along with their students. TAs who form discussion circles feel this boosts student confidence because it emphasizes the teacher as a learner and validates student contributions. Hear how one new TA uses the discussion circle in her class: