January 6, 2018 at 1:39 pm

How to Manage Your TA and Student Responsibilities

By Sofía Fernandez
Graduate Student in Linguistics at Ohio University

Being a graduate student requires a lot of time commitment, especially if you have to combine it with a teaching assistantship position. Here is a list of recommendations to manage both tasks successfully:

  1. Remember that you are a student first and then a TA.

Do not leave your classwork or readings for the last minute because you have been grading the whole day or preparing a lesson. Organize your day so you can finish your assignments on time. It is better to return exams to your students late than to not hand in your homework. Your responsibility is being a student first and then a TA. Thus, even though your teaching position might be related to your future career, remember that you are taking classes and studying to be a professional in your field. So, do not forget to prioritize your learning and improvement.

  1. Keep up with the syllabus content.

Every weekend read the course syllabus of the class you are teaching to be aware of the amount of content that you will need to prepare for the following week. Organize your schedule just in case you have to create a hard lesson for the middle of the week. Thorough planning will reduce anxiety, and it will give you the possibility of organizing your week in advance. If you are aware from the beginning that your students have an exam at some point in the week, you will have more time to catch up with your personal schoolwork during the week.

  1. Do not rush.

Trying to create all your lessons and finish all your homework during the weekend or on one day is impossible. Organize yourself so you can do a little bit every day. Do not set unrealistic deadlines for yourself because if you fail you will feel discouraged. Plan your lessons for a week or at least two days and write down all your assignments for your courses. Having an agenda will help you to not miss any important deadline or lessons for the week.

  1. Take breaks.

Even though it seems that you are always busy, take breaks and do activities that you like. You will always have things to do and deadlines to meet, but finding time to relax is important in order to have a healthy life. Exercise when possible and rest. Sleeping a good amount of time per night is an important part of your schedule, and you cannot disregard it. Also, having a good diet will increase your energy, and you will feel more motivated and productive.

  1. Ask for help, you are not alone.

Remember that you are not the only one going through this experience. Talk to a friend or a teacher if you are struggling to meet your deadlines or if you need help with your lessons. Talk with an experienced student or TA and ask for advice; create your own support system. If you feel that you have too much to do and insufficient time to prepare your lesson, do not feel ashamed to ask for help. Also, remember to always be there to return the favor for your classmates or the people who have helped you if they are going through the same at some point.

  1. Expect the unexpected.

Do not worry if things do not go as planned. If you organized yourself to work for a number of hours and you end up needing more time, it is fine. Maybe it was a hard lesson or a complex assignment, and you will have to plan your day or week again. Perhaps you even felt tired and needed to rest. Plan your week or your day again as much as you need. You are in control of your own life and time. If you think that you could have done more, talk with your professor and explain your situation. But do not take advantage of generosity and extensions, they will not happen twice.

  1. But more importantly, enjoy!

Take a minute every day or when you are having a bad day to think about what you have accomplished. If you are passionate about your education and your job, keep in mind that everything is going to be fine and you have to be patient. You will have bad lessons and you will receive bad grades, but you will succeed, too. You will have amazing days. You will enjoy your classes, and you will have outstanding classmates and students. Do not focus on the things that you cannot change and focus on how to improve yourself and be a better person every day.

See more Resources for Teaching Assistants at Ohio University.

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