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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Teaching Assistant (TA) Guide: First Day

Resources and guidance for teaching assistants (TAs) on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus.

Quick Tips

•  The first class sets the tone for the rest of the semester.

•  The first class gives students a sense of what you are like as a teacher and what will be expected from the class.

•  It's okay to be nervous! Students are nervous, too.

Questions and Answers

          How should I introduce myself?

Introduce yourself and explain what you want to be called. It's okay to use your first name. Many TAs and faculty do. However, if that makes you uncomfortable, then you can go by Mr./Mrs./Ms./Miss. Make sure that students are aware of your preference. They will want to be clear on how to address you.

            How do I make a good impression?

Arrive early. Create a comfortable atmosphere as students enter the room. Chat with them before class starts: How was their break? What other classes have they had this week? What is their major? Include your name and the course name on the board/PowerPoint so that nervous students know they are in the right place. 

          What should I cover on the first day?

Introductions are the first step. If you want students to work together and participate with you, they need to know you and their classmates. When you introduce yourself give a little background, e.g., your discipline, where you are in the program, why you are excited to teach this subject, and why you are a passionate about your discipline. Students will respond to this and become engaged. Have them do similar introductions.

Additionally, you want students to interact with each other. Have them pair off or work in small groups, which works as an ice breaker for shyer students. As they become more comfortable with each other, then they are more likely to participate as the class progresses.

After introductions you want to go over your class objectives. Be clear about what you expect from your students. Review the assignments, syllabus, and class rules, such as no cell phone use during class. Set the standard for the class on the first day. Start on time, ask students to participate, have a set agenda and stick with it, and end on time.

Remember, students are probably just as overwhelmed as you are on the first day. 

Comic: Understanding Undergrads

Questions to answer on the first day: Phd Comics

Subject Guide

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Social Sciences, Health, and Education Library
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