Helping UF’s TAs get off to a good start

Helping UF’s new TAs get off to a good start.

“Your Syllabus and Your First Week of Class” was my presentation for UF’s new teaching assistants — about 400 of them.

I’ve been invited to present in the TA orientation for about eight years. Each year, I am amazed how many new TAs the university has. The speaker before me was the president of the Graduate Student Union. He used a chart that showed the percentage of undergraduate classes taught by TAs has grown from about 35 percent to more than 50 percent in the last 10 years.

I asked them to indicate if they had:

Received their course textbooks? About 80 percent hadn’t.

Met or had a meeting scheduled with their course instructor? About 90 percent indicated no.

Read information about the course they will be teaching — Only a few hands indicated yes.

I encouraged them to make use of this week before classes to met with their supervisor, learn about the course, review the books, find their classroom, consider if their Facebook profile should be modified, and even consider what they will be wearing to teach.

Their questions included:

“Do you have any tips on how to remember student names?”
Ask students to introduce themselves as they speak in class for the first few class meetings. Name tents (5×7 notecards folded with the student’s name printed on it). Have students hold name tents and photograph each student — make a slideshow to review on your iPhone. Seating chart.

“How can you get the class to ask questions or talk in class?”
Ask them questions that are open-ended so they don’t think there’s only one right answer. After asking a question, wait several seconds for someone to respond — even thought it can seem like a long time. Instead of saying “Do you have any questions?”, you can say, “Do you have any questions or comments?”

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