Have students introduce themselves
Discuss course mechanics (attendance, etc.; see Course Mechanics)
Discuss nuances of pay, filling in late time cards, etc.
See Work for Credit.
Discuss the question
do I get paid for time spent in preparation. Probably discuss this with the faculty first; there are different opinions and reasons why some people believe each answer is unfair.
At UVa we also discuss
IntegratedSystem, our online timecard tool
Where to find paper timecards if you miss a reporting deadline
Where to fill out I-9 paperwork and the like
That some faculty believe you should report the number of hours you are hired for every week, regardless of the actual minutes you worked; and others believe you should log in and log out at the times you arrive and depart; so you need to ask them individually which one to do.
If you have a concern, of any kind, tell someone.
Usually start with your supervising faculty member (or head TA, if the course has them)
May also raise concerns and questions with
don’t do thispart
It is important to know some behaviors to avoid and some issues related to fairness and legality. We discuss the following:
Principle: all students deserve equal access to learning resources; TAs are one such learning resource.
If one student can access you as a TA when you are not on the clock and another cannot, inequity is introduced.
Sorry, because I am a TA I can only help you when I am holding office hours.
When responding to raised hands in a classroom or lab, people usually try to handle them in order but realistically that is not feasible if the number of hands is more than two or three. If you still try,
Instead, you should
walk a path, passing every student in a predetermined order
Additionally, some students come from a culture where a raised hand is a public admission of inadequacy, while others come from a culture where a raised hand is what all good students have. Avoiding raised hands is an asset in providing equitable access to all students.
As you TA, your perspective and understanding will refine and you’ll adopt various habits and patterns. It is worth pausing and asking
is my method conducive to equitable access? I advise doing this about once a month for your first semester, trying to identify ways you could be more fair and equitable in how you allocate your help.
When what you’d want as a TA and what you’d want personally conflict, there is a potential conflict of interest.
General rule: tell someone whose interest is unlikely to be conflicted (usually your supervisor)
Specific cases to consider
Friends, siblings, TAs for classes you are taking, and other people you like or want to impress may cause a conflict of interest making you want to help them more than their fair share.
Enemies, exes, and annoying people (and some students can be very annoying) may cause a conflict of interest making you want to help them less than their fair share.
Paid private tutoring is almost always a conflict of interest when you are a TA; never accept money, gifts, or the like for additional help without prior approval by your supervisor.
Romance (and the purely-physical analog)
If you are already romantically involved with a student, make that known to your supervisor, and then follow any guidelines or restrictions they suggest.
If you desire romantic involvement with a student,
Wait. If they are really your soul-mate, they’ll still be your soul-mate at the end of the term.
If you lack the willpower to wait or fear the competition will get there first, come talk to the teacher of the TA training course and we’ll see what we can do. It is almost impossible to enter a relationship with a student because of the implication of
someone with power seeking sexual favors, but we can work together to find a way to move forward.
(Note: I have yet to have a student take me up on this offer, and don’t know what I’d do if they did, but I want to leave open that avenue to deter people deciding to silently ignore this warning)
A federal law, FERPA makes sharing grades with persons other than course staff, university administration, and the graded student illegal.
Don’t put grades in email (as almost all email is unencrypted and actively read by email service providers)
Don’t tell grades to (or in the presence of) people other than the graded student. The exception to this: if the student is a minor, parents have a right to their grades (but let the instructor handle this, not you)
It is often the case that there are other regulations that apply to TAs. At UVa, we discuss the following:
A TA is a university employee, and since this is a public university that means a TA is also a state employee
what ought to bepart
One philosophical definition of ethics is the study of what ought to be. What ought a TA to be?
The discussion usually includes some form of the following observation:
Some parts of TAing you learn by doing; we’ll do our best to prepare you, but you won’t understand the full implications until you have seen what we’re talking about first-hand.