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First day as a TA

Adapted from Center for Teaching and Learning, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Center for Teaching and Learning, University of Washington.

A successful first day can be a key component of a successful quarter. On the first day consider ways to involve your students in a discussion of course content. Try modeling or practicing strategies and methods you plan to use throughout the semester. By planning a focused and dynamic first day you will give students a better sense of the course overall.

How should I introduce myself?
Introduce yourself and explain what you want to be called. It’s okay to use your first name. Many TAs and faculty do. However, if that makes you uncomfortable, then you can go by Mr./Mrs./Ms./Miss. Make sure that students are aware of your preference. They will want to be clear on how to address you.
When you introduce yourself give a little background, e.g., your discipline, where you are in the program, why you are excited to teach this subject, and why you are a passionate about your discipline. Students will respond to this and become engaged. Have them do similar introductions.

How do I make a good impression?
Arrive early. Create a comfortable atmosphere as students enter the room. Chat with them before class starts: How was their break? What other classes have they had this week? What is their major? Include your name and the course name on the board/PowerPoint so that nervous students know they are in the right place.

What should I do on the first day?

  • Collect information about your students: Have students write down their names, contact information, majors and the last course taken in the subject area. This information will provide valuable background and help you calibrate your teaching and course content to your students’ levels and interests.
  • Make sure to invite students who may need accommodations (students with disabilities or student athletes for example) to provide any documentation or to make necessary requests.
  • Get students to engage with the syllabus. Review the syllabus as a group; highlight the course requirements and policies. Discuss the objectives of the course and your approach to the subject. Discuss the readings, assignments and forms of evaluation.
  • Establish a comfortable atmosphere and professional rapport: Establishing an atmosphere in which students will feel comfortable asking questions and contributing to discussion, in a respectful manner, will increase everyone’s potential for success.
  • Additionally, you may want students to interact with each other. Have them pair off or work in small groups, which works as an ice breaker for shyer students. As they become more comfortable with each other, then they are more likely to participate as the class progresses.
  • Teach something: Get your students engaged with the course content from day 1.

Additional resources
“Making the Most of the First Day of Class”, Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence, Carnegie Mellon

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