Like it or not, Fall 2014 is nearly here. The new academic year starts in earnest in 39 days. At that time, as if at the sound of a bugle, we will all take up our teaching/learning posts. We know many of you have been GAing and TAing all summer, and for you the “Fall Wall” might not be quite as foreboding. Even so, the fall academic season tends to bring its own unique challenges, maybe a little more intense than the norm. So what do you do if this fall is also your first as a GA or TA?

This time last year, one frustrated Teaching Assistant reached out to the StackExchange Academia community. The comments that TA received from responders of all kinds collected some pretty useful advice on how to prepare for the coming semester.

Hopefully you’ll find a lot of similar advice right here on the blog. Barring that, you’ll definitely want to attend GATAcademy. For the time being, here are some things to consider.

Find Purpose

This is perhaps the hardest thing to do for new GA/TAs. Many of us can relate to the poster in the thread above who seems conflicted about their role and its impact on student learning. It may be too soon to draft your teaching philosophy, but before you start embark on this coming semester, you’ll have to ask yourself, “What’s the goal?

Ask Questions

Good GA/TAs are made, not born. The only way you’ll develop the particular skills needed for your role is to ask lots of questions. If you’re having trouble figuring out what to ask, you might consult Brydges, Gammage, & Sinclair (2003).

This means asking around, too. That is to say that there are a number of valuable resources outside of your course leader, including other GA/TAs, your faculty’s administrative staff, the Centre for Teaching and Learning, and so on.

Consult the Manual

This tip is a bit misleading, as there is no single “manual” to being a GA/TA. There are a lot of really useful guidebooks though. One commenter in the StackExchange thread above mentions a few universities that have made their GA/TA guides available online. Closer to home, we’ve highlighed guides from universities around Ontario before, like McMaster University and the University of Ottawa. Don’t forget about our GATA Handbook either!