Things You Should NEVER Say to Your TA

A few months ago (November 3 2011 to be specific), I wrote a post entitled “Things Your TA Wishes She Could Say To You”. While reviewing this post, I noticed that there is a typo in the first line (“TTeaching”) but I maintain that the advice is nonetheless sound. Today, while reviewing the dozens of emails I have received from students in the past few days and reflecting on a recent conversation with some students I taught last term, I made the decision to add a new post to my TA series, a post about things you should NEVER say to your TA. This one! (In case you didn’t read the title and were confused). Here goes:

1. “I came to your session this week, but I have no idea of where to begin with this assignment.”
This phrase can be interpreted in one of three ways: a) I came to your sessions but didn’t pay attention because you are boring, b) I came to your sessions but didn’t learn anything because you are useless, and c) I came to your sessions but didn’t ask any questions because I had better things to do than stick around during the Q&A or Office Hours. Any way you look at it, this expression is insulting and is unlikely to render your TA sympathetic. Before you email me in my off-hours (i.e. at 2 in the morning when I am trying to sleep through the buzzing of my cellphone), consider the following options: read the workbook and the Powerpoint slides that I send around every week, attend my office hours and ask me questions then, and re-read the assignment and think about whether I will be able to guide you through it (if it is graded, chances are that my hands are bound and you are SUPPOSED to be working through it on your own).

2. “I was ___ (insert excuse) last week and could not make it to your session, did I miss anything important?”
No, we all noticed you were missing and decided to finger paint instead. Actually, that’s a lie. I spend 2 hours preparing a killer PPT presentation and reviewing concepts so that I could stir up a little interest in the much neglected field of quantitative methods. The fact that you did not prioritize my session or at least review the PPT I sent around or even assume that we were doing something important is pretty hurtful. And no, I will not go step-by-step over those materials (see above).

3. “We should go get a drink sometime.”
I understand that some TAs date their students (hopefully after the term is over and grades are in)… I am not one of them. It isn’t that I see anything morally wrong with it, it’s just that I chose to draw a thick line between my work-life and my personal life. If you meet your TA again in a year or two, when the class is behind you, sparking up a friendship is 100% acceptable. In most other circumstances, it is probably better to avoid censure and ask that girl or guy sitting next to you in class on a date instead (go on, I think she likes you!).

4. “I heard _____ (insert salacious gossip) about Professor X”
Note: I am not talking about the bald, psychic leader of the X-Men, I am talking about the professor of the class I am TAing for. This one is pretty self-explanatory. It does no-one any good to say nasty or potentially ruinous things about the people we work with or work for. I will not engage in these discussions. Please do not put your TA in an uncomfortable position.

5. “Will this be on the exam?”
I have said it before and I will say it again… YES! Yes it will.

6. “Do you have an extra pen?”
I do, but I don’t trust you to return it after the class is over. This goes for pens, whiteboard markers, erasers, pencils, and notepads. Come prepared, I refuse to spend hundreds of dollars a year re-stocking your stationery cabinet.

That’s all for now. Let me know if you have any suggestions for things YOU don’t ever want to hear.


2 responses to “Things You Should NEVER Say to Your TA

  1. See, point #6 is exactly why all my supplies for teaching now come from the department office. Also because somehow every whiteboard marker in the universe is dried up. Caps, people! Use them!

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