As a graduate teaching assistant, you face the difficult but rewarding challenge of balancing your roles as student and teacher. While this "balancing act" may be difficult at times, a variety of resources and strategies can ease your task.

Most TAs need to devote fairly predictable amounts of time to teaching. That may include class meetings, preparing exams, grading assignments, and office hours. Your own class schedule and study time might appear more flexible—"I can write that paper later tonight"—but before you know it your teaching effort is overwhelming your own learning activities. The best approach is to establish a firm schedule for your own work—integrating your research and coursework into your teaching schedule.

It's important to be available to your students, but you don't need to drop everything every time one asks for help. Your own work is important, and sometimes that means saying, "Not right now." Consider how much time you'll need for yourself and set aside a few 4-hour blocks each week, free from any student interaction; use this uninterrupted time for your graduate studies.

Your best strategy for managing your new "identity" is to prepare well. Good teachers are not born—they are made of hard work, dedication, and a good understanding of their importance to the academic life of their students.

Just the beginning…

This online handbook provides only a brief introduction to the most common concerns of graduate teaching assistants at UNL.

For more detailed and comprehensive information on TA matters, we strongly encourage you to consult:
  • your supervising professor
  • your academic advisor
  • your department head
  • your college dean
  • the Office of Graduate Studies

Image by Ciro Cattuto, under creative commons license.