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The Student and Teaching Assistant Relationship
Figuring out how to interact with students is one of the most important (and hardest) parts of teaching. As a Teaching Assistant (TA), you have additional layers to the student relationship that can make it even harder. However, building a professional relationship with your students can make your teaching both more effective and enjoyable.
Establishing a Relationship
- If you are a TA for an face to face or hybrid course, introduce yourself on the first day of class. If you are a TA for an online course, ask the professor if you can introduce yourself during a live session or record a short introductory video.
- If you are leading a lab or recitation section, introduce yourself to those specific students, since you will be working with them more closely during the semester. This might involve recording a short video to post on Canvas or taking some time during the first day of lab or recitation.
- TAs who are teaching independently or overseeing a group of students in a lab or recitation can benefit from creating a short “Getting to Know Your Students” survey at the beginning of the semester and/or conducting Early Term Feedback (ETF) a few weeks into the semester. These surveys will differ depending on what and how you are teaching.
Office Hours and Out of Class Support
- In many cases, TAs hold office hours and provide out of class support via email or other means.
- If you are working with a professor, they might ask you to schedule office hours in collaboration with your fellow TAs. Usually, you will schedule office hours and hold them at the same time each week. Check with your professor about which tool to use if they expect you to hold virtual office hours.
- Students often depend on office hours to get help on issues they are having in the course. Try to avoid canceling office hours, so students can get this support if they need it.
- It is easy to overload yourself by answering student questions over email. For more complicated questions, consider meeting with the student before or after class. That can be more efficient than answering long questions over email.
- Let students know if you won’t be answering emails over the weekend or after work hours. This allows you to dedicate time to your own work.
- Tell students when they can expect a reply. For example, let them know that you will usually reply within 24 hours.
- Defer to the professor if you are unsure how to answer a question.
- Keep all relationships with students professional. While being friendly and personable with your students is important, the focus should always be on helping them improve their academic work.
- Try to be approachable and open. Students are more likely to come to you if they feel like you are excited to help them.
- Give students your contact information (name, UC email, office number if applicable) in a place that is easy for them to find such as the homepage or syllabus in Canvas.
- Model good professional behavior for students, especially in email. Often, students don’t know good email etiquette, so it can help to show them how to write a professional communication.