1 Things don’t always go smoothly

Something will go wrong. Something strange and unexpected will go wrong. When you have hundreds of students, things that only happen to a fraction of a percent of students happen to some student in the class every semester. Expect this, and know what to do.

Additionally, with several hundred TAs and several dozen instructors, some instructor-TA or TA-TA relationship is going to suffer from miscommunication, misaligned expectations, or other trouble. Hopefully that won’t be yours, but it pays to be prepared: expect a little friction, and know what to do.

What do you do? Two rules:

If you are unsure, surprised, or concerned, tell someone!

Who do you tell? I recommend

  1. Your head TA, lab lead, etc if your course has those
  2. Your supervising faculty member
  3. The faculty member teaching the TA training course
  4. An associate chair in the department

Never pretend you know something you don’t know.

There is no problem so bad that dishonesty and pretending can’t make it worse. When something occurs that you don’t know how to handle, admit that your don’t know how to handle it.

Model leaning, not knowing.

TAs are many things, including role-models to students. The most effective role models display their growth and improvement, not just their stature and quality. Saying wow, I’ve never encountered that before; I’m not sure what to do. Let me ask the instructor and get back with you helps students see you as a a person who has accumulated more experience than them not as a person with a better brain then them.

2 Mandated Reporting

As a TA, you are a university employee. As a public institution, that makes you a state employee. As a state employee, you are, by law, a mandated reporter. This means that when on the clock as a TA, you are required by law to report any abuse or evidence of abuse you witness, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

You can report to

We strongly recommend using JustReportIt, as it is much simpler to use.

If you witness evidence of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, report it at https://JustReportIt.virginia.edu

Note that this mandate supersedes any form of confidentiality you can enter into as a TA.

The university also has a reference document explaining how to handle dozens of situations: Helping Students in Distress or Crisis.

3 Information and Power

TAs have access to information that others do not, and have power to change the lives of students in significant ways. Be sensitive to use this only in appropriate ways. Don’t access TA information or use TA power outside the scope of your TA duties.

Don’t use TA resources this to further causes outside of your TA role. For example, don’t advertise for your club, Greek society, or business using course-provided channels.

We have additional details in three other documents: