I am currently a graduate TA and my duties include preparing tutorials for an undergrad course, we are supposed to prepare the sessions based on the material sent to us by the professor.

The problem is that the professor has been emailing the material 1 hour before my tutorial starts for three weeks in a row. I feel like I can't prepare anything decent in such little time. Last week I asked the professor to please send the material with more time, the professor agreed but this week she did the same thing anyway. When I saw that 2 hours before the tutorial started I had no news from the Prof, I prepared the material myself and ignored her email that was sent 1 hour before my tutorial.

I definitely have to write something to her since the instructor should know what happens in the tutorial sessions, but what do I tell her? It might sound aggressive to say "if you don't send me the material with enough time I will just do whatever I want", but that is exactly what I want to say (in a different tone). Am I wrong here? If you are a prof, how would you react to something like that?

  • Is this her first year teaching this course? Jun 2, 2021 at 16:10
  • I think it's her second year, but I am not sure. Jun 2, 2021 at 16:20
  • 1
    What course is this? If it's something like freshman calculus it's probably not expected that you plan extensively in advance.
    – academic
    Jun 2, 2021 at 16:21
  • I'd rather not say which course it is, it is a first year and fairly easy course. Jun 2, 2021 at 16:27
  • 2
    @srchunchurria Trust me, we won't be able to track you down if you say "intro to psych" Jun 2, 2021 at 17:08

3 Answers 3


First of all, you CAN do whatever you want in your recitation sections. Presumably, you know what the recitation is supposed to be about, and the professor merely sends you some materials such as example problems or theorems to go over. Recitation sessions are pretty relaxed.

Also, if you are teaching a first year, freshman intro, course, it should be pretty easy material and as a graduate student you should more or less be able to wing it.

You should ask the professor if she is making these materials from scratch or if she is modifying them from past years. You say this is the second year she's teaching this course and if that's true she almost certainly is doing the latter. You can ask her to send you the outdated version beforehand.


Talk to your professor. All professors are people, and you're not just a robot that does their bidding. Let them know what you'd like to do after receiving their direction, and how long it is expected to take. Then ask if you could get the assignments earlier, at a specific time before the class, so you can carry out your desired tasks.

You might get directed to not do what you're planning, you might get congratulated for your desire to do more, and you might get something completely different. If you never ask, you'll never know.

Working for a professor (or anyone else) isn't a one-direction communication channel in a healthy working relationship. You should offer supporting suggestions; but, if told your suggestions are not desired, you should deliver what you are instructed to do. Professors have a lot of demands on their time, and your suggestion should be rehearsed to be short and to the point. If you get a "No", you might also want to rehearse how you will accept it.

If, after a long run of failed suggestions, maybe you need to find a different Professor or find out why your ideas aren't working. It's hard to generalize, because your brilliant idea might be known to be bad, or your professor might not recognize a brilliant idea. In any case, in this, as in life, you must be prepared for failure and success. In some cases, "yes" becomes worse than "no" when you've launched an effort you can't reliably deliver.

Good luck, and start with talking to your professor.


Are there any TA meetings or does the professor/instructor have any hours allocated where you can discuss this issue in person with them? Professors are busy people and get a lot of emails to the point that your emails may occasionally slip. It can usually take multiple reminders by e-mail to get your message to stick. When I TA'd an introductory data structures course and was tasked with leading a recitation, we had weekly TA meetings where we discussed the week's events and anything that was going on, and had the opportunity to bring about any issues (that said, there were multiple undergraduate/graduate TA's, so I'd say it depends on your situation a little as well).

As for e-mailing the prof about this situation, I wouldn't particularly say, "if you don't send me the material soon enough, I'll do what I want", a better way to word that specific line in my opinion would be "if I don't get the material by a certain time for the week's recitation, it will make it significantly harder for me to teach the material the way you want." Something along that line.

I should note that this is something that even undergraduate students experience when taking a course (not necessarily just TA's). Occasionally students/TA's will run into problems involving lack of communication with the instructor, whether it is getting questions answered or being late on posting assignments or other material.

  • There was a single zoom meeting at the beginning of the term but no more meetings afterwards and there is nothing scheduled for the future. Jun 2, 2021 at 16:31
  • 2
    Could you try and meet with the instructor one on one to try and address this lack of communication? I did this occasionally as an undergraduate TA when I needed clarification on policies or assignments.
    – Daveguy
    Jun 2, 2021 at 16:33

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