Advice from a TA

Happy September! I’m about to start my third week of school, and there are people who just started this week. That’s crazy to me! But I love September! In fact, it’s my favorite month! Fall starts to be in the air, leaves change color, the temperature cools down, pumpkin and apples come out, and… there was one other thing… oh yeah! It’s my birthday month!!!!!

Some of you may know that I am a Teacher’s assistant this semester for a basic history course. I haven’t had too many encounters or weird things happen yet, but that will probably happen. That being said, I have a list of things I think people should know from my perspective as a TA. Or these may also just be study/learning tips I have learned in my two years of college.

  • READ YOUR SYLLABUS- You would think this would be obvious, but you would be so surprised. At the end of the first day of class, I had a student come up to me and ask what edition of the textbook she needed. I did my best to answer her question, but that is for sure in the syllabus. So if she had just looked at her syllabus, we could have avoided the whole awkward encounter.
  • Show up to class- Another obvious one, but necessary. The class that I TA for has about 200 students. The past couple of class meetings have seen maybe half of that. The professor I TA for also provides bonus points that you only get if you’re in class. I understand things come up, but just because attendance may not be mandatory does not mean you shouldn’t skip it.
  • Take notes- Showing up to class is great, but taking notes is the key to passing any college class. I have a professor this semester who is only going to test us on the things she talks about in lecture. She does put up her PowerPoint for us, but there are things not included on the PowerPoint. The best way I take notes is summarizing what the professor says and what the slideshow says. This way, when I’m studying later, I have no difficulty finding my spot on the slideshow based on my notes. But that brings me to my next point–
  • Every single word is not important- I’m in a class this semester with a bunch of freshmen. Every time my professor changes the slide, they scramble to write every single word down. I write maybe one or two lines. I get the main points, and I add information I think is important. The lowest grade I’ve gotten in a class in college is a B, so I’d say that method works pretty well.
  • Use your TA- I am a resource for my students. I hold office hours with the hope that a student will show up and ask a question or have something I can help with. I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging or anything, but I am very fortunate in not having to use my TAs all that frequently. But I have when I needed. In my psychology class last semester, my TA held a session to help us prepare for a huge paper. I wanted to do well, so I went. And that paper scored well. TAs are literally there to help you do the best you can in the course.
  • Check your email- When it comes to college, email is the most common form of communication. I personally have all my email accounts synced to my phone. My personal email (blog stuff and default) updates every thirty minutes. I have my school email set to inform me immediately when I get an email they deem as important. This way I am in the know all the time of things that are happening around the school. If it’s not important, then it can wait (it usually gets deleted anyway).
  • Make a friend in the class- Being in class alone sucks. Most of my psychology classes, I don’t know anyone. So I make a friend with the people who sit around me. This way I can get notes for anything I may miss, and I don’t feel alone in the class. Like I said earlier, my TA class has about 200 students. I’ve sat in this lecture hall as a student before. If you don’t know anyone, you can feel seriously alone in a lecture hall that size.
  • If you have questions, ask!- It’s okay to ask questions. My professor even offers opportunities for questions once he ends a section. Or, if you don’t feel comfortable asking questions during class, come up and ask the professor after. But, some people still think the professor is too intimidating. Well I have good news for you! That’s where us TAs come in! We can answer pretty much any question about the course you may have, and if we can’t, then we have the resources to find out for you.
  • Understand your TA is a person too- I have a very full schedule this semester. So if one of my students were to email me, I cannot guarantee that I would get back to them right away. I can pretty much promise at most 24 hours, but usually it’s less than that. It will probably even be less than 12 hours for me to respond. Granted, I like to keep my email up-to-date and respond promptly, but I know not all TAs are like that. We have a lot going on. Respect that, and we’ll get to you when we can.

I hope these tips help! Being a TA is going to be such an unforgettable experience, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me!

Let me know if you have any thoughts or comments!
Love,
Kim ♥

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