Even if your long-term career plans do not include teaching, the experience of planning, leading, and assessing the learning experiences of others is a significant element of your overall professional development. Take advantage of this chance to learn more about yourself and hone skills that will always be in demand.
Take part in as many aspects of teaching as possible. Does your department have a development program for TAs? Try organizing a teaching circle in which your peers and faculty colleagues work together (for at least a semester) to address questions and concerns about their teaching and learning; or pair up with a peer and do reciprocal class visitations and review each other's materials.
Become an observer of those already teaching. If you're planning on teaching as a career, think of your teaching assistantship as a chance to learn from those who have "been there." Ask questions: How does your course connect with other courses in the curriculum? How do you prepare for class? How does your course begin? What do you lecture about? What are the key assignments? Why is this teaching method used? What is teaching all about? Talk about teaching with other TAs and your professors.
Get in the habit of examining what you do and why you do it. Keep a journal or a daily log on your teaching experiences. When things go well, ask yourself "why?" When things go wrong, think about what happened and why. The act of reflecting and writing will increase your awareness of what it is that guides you as a teacher. It is also a first, and necessary, step toward improvement.
Most disciplines have journals devoted to teaching; if you have time, check out the teaching journal in yours. And if you're planning a career in teaching, other periodicals discuss teaching in general or issues in higher education. If you don't have time for this reading, then look at your own textbooks from the perspective of a teacher. What makes the material comprehensible to students? How is the material presented? How would you teach this material? Using a critical eye, you can learn to think like a teacher.
Collecting feedback from your students, observing how they learn, and designing modest classroom experiments are simple classroom assessment techniques that can tell you how much students are learning and what teaching methods are most effective. Classroom assessment can help you answer questions about issues or problems you have in your teaching and, as a result, help you develop your teaching skills. More important, conducting classroom research can help you become more knowledgeable, involved, and successful as a college teacher.