Attending new teacher orientation — maximizing your experience

by Julie Dodd

UF TA Handbook 2018-2019

That auditorium looks like C130 in UF’s Chemistry Lab Building — one of the 17 auditoriums I’ve taught in as a UF faculty member.

Thousands of teaching assistants across the country are getting ready to start a new academic year. [More than 136,000 teaching assistants were employed in the most recent count by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.]

Many of those teaching assistants are new and will be attending orientation sessions as part of their preparation.

For more than a dozen years, I’ve been a presenter at the University of Florida’s orientation for new teaching assistants, sponsored by the Graduate School and the Teacher Center. I really enjoy helping the more than 400 new TAs each year be better prepared for success in their teaching.

Here are five suggestions for how to maximize your experience as you attend a new teacher orientation. 

#1 – Consider the questions you have about teaching in general and your teaching assignment.

You’ll be more engaged in the sessions if you consider those sessions as a way of answering questions you have about teaching. So before going to the orientation, make a list of questions you have…and then add to your list as other questions occur to you as you participate in the orientation.

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Advice for new teaching assistants

by Julie Dodd

jou3109 teaching team

Rich Shumate (on far right) was my lecture assistant for Multimedia Writing. The photo is of the lab instructors for the course.

When Rich Shumate and I met for lunch to celebrate him joining the faculty at Western Kentucky University, one of our topics of conversation was teaching.

As my lecture assistant during his doctoral program, Rich and I had literally hundreds of conversations about teaching, as we planned classes, discussed individual student situations, developed assignments and exams for the 200+ students in Multimedia Writing, and worked with the lab instructors for the course.

Knowing that I was going to be speaking at the University of Florida’s Orientation for Teaching Assistants, I asked Rich what advice he would give new teaching assistants. Here’s the combination of Rich’s advice along with my comments.

Shumate: Always be prepared for class. Don’t just go in and wing it. Your teaching should be planned.

Dodd: Sometimes those who are new to teaching think about professors they had who seemed to spontaneous in their teaching and think that they can be spontaneous, too. But most of the discussions that seemed to be spur of the moment were created by the professor’s questions or objectives for that day’s class. Some really great teaching and learning can happen that isn’t planned in advance, but most good teaching – that leads to students accomplishing the goals of the course – is based on planning and preparation.

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