As a TA discusses in the TA Testimony below, it can be incredibly frustrating to have expectations of your role as a TA for a professor only to discover as the semester progresses that the needs of that professor are not what you had anticipated.  However, while your responsibilities and experiences as a TA for a professor will vary greatly depending on the expectations and requirements of the professor you are assisting, this does not mean the experience has to be completely out of your hands.  Communication with the professor prior to the start of the semester can be essential in outlining what your role over the semester will involve.  If you have specific goals or ideas for your TA role, discuss these ahead of time with your professor. For example, if you would like the experience of teaching a class, talk to your professor about your ideas for that class and why you would value this opportunity. This could help you and your professor find a balance between the grading and technology assistance they might require and the teaching experience you desire.

TA Testimony--- "I have just completed my first year in a PhD program here at Arizona State University. Overall, I enjoyed my experience, however, I was disappointed with my teaching assistant (TA) role. The professors, students, and subject matter were great, but my role as a TA was not what I expected.

After the August 2013 TA orientation, I was under the impression that I would be teaching my own class, responsible for curriculum, and grading. In reality, I was more of a technology assistant. Luckily, I have advanced technology skills, but if I did not have technology skills, I might have been lost and the professor disappointed.

I write this blog post not to scare anyone away from the TA position, but to let it be known that you might work with a professor who wants you to pull up PowerPoints or figure out the projector screen, or update Blackboard, or use Dropbox.

During the semester, I mostly followed the lead of the professor. When we spoke about my goals prior to the semester, I should have made it clear that I wanted to prepare a curriculum or I wanted to grade all the midterm papers. Instead, I discussed my dissertation topic, relating it to the course material. While it was great presentation and public speaking practice, it was not good practice for actually teaching a class.

At this moment I do not know if I will pursue an academic position or not, but I would still like to be prepared with some teaching skills. What I do know is that I do not want to only work on the technology aspect of a course.

Next semester, I will make it clear to the professor that I want to take at least one class and design the curriculum and spend the entire class period teaching a subject.

My advice for a new TA, 1) know your goals and express them clearly to the professor 2) take initiative and pursue your ideas, 3) have some basic technology skills."

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