Tips for Your First Day as a Teaching Assistant

Carolina Jacobs

Nov 11, 2022
Even if you're not their full-time teacher, one thing you should do on your first day as a teaching assistant is try bonding with your students.

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Becoming a teaching assistant makes your education more rewarding, whether you’re an upperclassman or a graduate student. You’ll help other students while learning from a professor in your future field. There are many things to look forward to, but don’t forget these tips for your first day as a teaching assistant.

1. Proactively Ask for Work

You’ll work alongside your professor in the in-between role as a teaching assistant. You’re not a student, but you’re not a full-time faculty member, so your job is to gain as much experience as possible to gain teaching experience.

Ask for work proactively throughout your upcoming semester or year. Sometimes you’ll sort through your professor’s inbox, while other times you might grade papers or prepare materials for each student in an upcoming class. It’s all valuable time that will prepare you for a possible career as a teacher or professor in the same field.

2. Bond With Your Students

People in your class should see you as a peer and a role model who can answer their questions. You’re the go-between for them and the professor. Bond with your students professionally by demonstrating enthusiasm for the class subject and their academic success. They’ll have an easier time succeeding if they know you’re on their side.

3. Seek Inspiration in Others

You’ll learn first-hand lessons as a teaching assistant, but you can also learn from others who came before you. Get to know other professors in your department to hear about their successes and what they learned from their failures. You can also read inspiring books during free periods to develop a well-rounded perspective of being a teacher.

4. Reflect on What Worked for You

There are numerous teaching styles that every student will respond to differently. Try not to settle on one style without reflecting on what worked for you during your years as a student. You might try blended learning techniques to provide numerous educational materials for each lesson.

Sometimes you might want to get students moving to teach them something new or structure lessons differently. You’ll help all of your students succeed by reaching them through how they learn best.

5. Volunteer to Teach Lessons

Professors may get used to being the sole educator in the classroom and forget to let you take the lead occasionally. When you think you can handle the subject matter, volunteer to teach something by yourself. You’ll get space to take the lead and still get valuable feedback before getting a classroom of your own.

Afterward, take notes on your experience to learn from self-awareness. You’ll reflect on things like how you handled your emotions during a challenging day in class or the ways you successfully helped a student. Next time those responses or better alternatives will feel effortless.

6. Demonstrate Humility and Curiosity

When you don’t know something, admit it and show how you research it to learn more. Demonstrate how everyone is constantly learning and it’s alright to admit when you don’t know everything. Humbling yourself like this throughout the semester will instill a sense of curiosity in your students that will carry them through their future education and careers.

Enjoy Being a Teaching Assistant

Your first day as a teaching assistant will have many positive experiences and surprises. Take these tips with you into the new school year or semester. You’ll use them during your first shift and your educator experience as you prepare for your upcoming career.

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