International TAs

Strict or Friendly? A TA Finds His Teaching Style

Submitted by jfishe10 on May 28, 2014 - 12:30pm

As a TA for a professor, it can be difficult to figure out your relationship to the students. You don’t have the same automatic authority as the professor or sole instructor of the course, but you also obviously are not one of the students. So how should you behave towards the students? How strict or authoritative should you be? The answer will largely depend on your own teaching style and comfort level with the students. While some TAs choose to be more strict, others prefer a more relaxed attitude. For example, this TA found a relaxed and friendly style worked best for him:

TA Responds to Passive Aggressive Behavior

Submitted by jfishe10 on May 28, 2014 - 12:24pm

Passive aggressive behavoir can be particularly challenging to respond to. It may also seem less serious than outright aggressive behavior. However, if allowed to continue, passive aggressive behavior can foster an uncomfortable classroom environment for yourself and your students. See how one TA responded to passive aggressive behavior from one of her students below. Notice that this TA asked one of her mentors for advice on how to handle the problem. Don't be afraid to speak with your professors about how they might respond in a similiar situation.

Dressing the Part

Submitted by jfishe10 on May 28, 2014 - 11:28am

How you choose to dress on the first day is determined largely by how you wish to present yourself to your students. You can present authority, be relaxed, or find a median point between the two. For the first day, many experienced TAs recommend dressing professionally. Your students will be expecting this, and through years of conditioning will naturally defer to your authority and presumed expertise so as long as you perform the role of instructor in accordance with their expectations.

Choosing Your Props

Submitted by jfishe10 on May 28, 2014 - 10:58am
The tools you use to transport materials to and from the classroom as well as the supplies you use when interacting with your students can influence their appreciation of your role as the instructor. While some TAs are not particularly concerned with the supplies they use in class, others are concerned carrying a backpack might make them seem the same age as their students (often especially a concern for younger TAs). If you are looking for another way to enhance your professional appearance and subtly establish authority, you might consider the following supply suggestions from a TA.

Preparing Your Script

Submitted by jfishe10 on May 28, 2014 - 10:53am

Preparing what you are going to say and practicing it is a good way to feel more confident in front of your students. Try going over your script in front of the mirror or a friend. When we say "script," we aren't trying to imply you should have every word worked out and memorized---just having an idea of what you want to say, practicing it, and maybe having some bullet points will go a long ways towards a smooth first class.

What's in a Name?

Submitted by jfishe10 on May 28, 2014 - 10:52am

Deciding what your students should call you can be difficult. Below, we've listed the options and common thoughts on/concerns about these choices. Ultimately, go with what makes you feel most comfortable.

Mr./Ms./Mrs. Last Name

Many TAs ask their students to call them by their last name. This formal approach can help foster respect in the classroom, and often times younger TAs appreciate it as a tool for setting boundaries between themselves and their students.

General Thoughts and Tips on Conflict Resolution

Submitted by jfishe10 on May 28, 2014 - 10:45am

One of the many issues that new teachers most fear is that of how to deal with conflict in the classroom. It is the instructor’s responsibility to strive to create a mutually respectful learning environment. At times, however, situations arise which make this ideal state of affairs impossible. What should be done if a student becomes aggressive, either verbally or physically, or bullies other students or even the instructor? How can such a volatile situation be dealt with in a professional, cool-headed manner?

Location, Location

Submitted by jfishe10 on May 28, 2014 - 10:28am

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.

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