If you need help with online teaching or other challenges in academia arising from the COVID-19 crisis, we have prepared this FAQ to get you started.
186

Wait until after the course is over and grades are in: don't put your TA in a difficult situation. After that, you are just two adult humans, assuming you won't have any other courses with this TA.


86

It depends on the type of mistake. All mistakes must get fixed to make sure the students don't learn anything wrong. However, how to best fix the mistake depends on the situation. If it is a small mistake that can be fixed easily (e.g. a missing minus sign) I would recommend bringing it up on the spot. The 'cost' to the teacher and impact on the lecture is ...


84

I would consider asking the student who is not getting along with their partner, whether they would consider leaving their current partner and work on their own from here on out. That way, the student still would have to do all the work on their own, but no longer has someone benefitting from their efforts without contributing. If the student seriously ...


63

You're correct in feeling uneasy. Even if you are not yourself improperly influenced, there would definitely be the appearance of possibility of improper influence, which is as important, in terms of the impact on other peoples' actions, as actual impropriety. Even tutoring _for_free_, since you are in the same dept as the people giving the other course, ...


57

Actually, I think the best course of action would be for you to decline this offer. You have different personal relationships with different people in the class and it will be difficult to put aside all of your unconscious feelings and grade in a completely unbiased manner. It also opens the possibility of your friends putting pressure on you, which you can ...


50

I'm surprised that you hadn't foreseen this. Many students have complaints about their randomly-assigned partners - and frankly, many of these complaints are legitimate. I recommend switching partners weekly. This gives three advantages: No one has an unfair advantage (in grades or workload) from having been assigned an awesome partner, or an unfair ...


47

It sounds to me like you are allowing yourself to be emotionally manipulated by your students, particularly the one (who sounds super obnoxious) who told you about the promise for a luxury car from their parents. It’s indeed important to have empathy, and I find your conscious insistence on practicing empathy every day incredibly noble and admirable — if ...


37

Most people who TA don't have an option as it is what pays the bills and allows them to study. It is less valuable if you can pay your own way. But it isn't entirely without value. I once held a full fellowship for study (multi year), but it still required that I spend one of those years doing the equivalent of a TA. The feeling was that it is valuable ...


32

You should consult with your department, asking explicitly: How do you want to proceed, I feel like these conditions are excessive and were not part of the deal as far as I know. Come to the meeting with your signed contract / TA paperwork. I assume, your department cares about quality of the education they provide. Don't let them pin this on you, you ...


31

Would it be ethical to express these sentiments of admiration and gratitude to them during their office hours? Of course. I would wait until the course, and the grades, are finalized, though. Consider sending a note or expressing your (professional) sentiments during TA evaluations (if such a thing exists where you are); doing it in office hours might be ...


28

Absolutely yes. If you have teaching experience on your CV, you can claim that you're good at presenting, you know how to mentor juniors, you have worked with people from other cultures, you are able to work in groups towards a common goal (if you didn't teach alone, which you probably don't as a TA), you know how to manage disputes, and so on. Plus you ...


28

You know your professor better than we do, but I have only experienced professors who were thankful when their mistakes were pointed out (also by TAs). It's not bad etiquette: it helps everyone involved to learn something new. you point out the mistake in a friendly and factual manner, so they can save their face. Everyone makes mistakes and can err, ...


26

I spotted an error with a professor's example and, having checked and confirmed my work over the weekend. I went to his office the next week with the example and showed him. He was happy with the correct example. My surprise was that he presented the corrected example clearly stating I had sorted it to the whole class - nearly fell off my chair! So, go for ...


26

As this is a weekly assignment, then I would consider randomly shuffling all the students every two weeks or each week... This forces more communication and reduces the effect of any single poor pairing. It also prevents the "stars" coagulating together permanently and exposes them to the skills of needing to manage teams/partners who are at different ...


25

Just to go against the grain, if you decide to take it: Be methodical and very objective. Every action you take should be documented and based on provable facts. I taught friends for more than a few courses. I usually do a pass cataloging errors, then I assign a mark for each error, which leads to the grades. That way, when someone questions the markings ...


24

Check with the professor outside of class time; find out what their preferences are. They may want all corrections publicly and immediately, or all corrections privately and later, or they may ask you to make a judgement call as in @user2705196's answer ("how important is this correction? can it easily be fixed on the fly?"). Make sure to be diplomatic, ...


21

You talk about empathy towards those asking for extensions, what about those who didn’t? Many students work their butt off to make deadlines and never think of asking for an extension. By granting extensions to some students who don’t have a valid reason (in my book that’d be medical or death/severe illness of human loved one, but your policy can differ), ...


19

Yes, it’s usually good to point it out, but be polite and careful about how you do so. Some good ways to point something out: “Should that f(x) in the last equation be f(y)?” “For the third step, should we be assuming that the marginal cost is positive?” [when your suspected mistake is a missing assumption] “I’m confused; you said that ZFC is a complete ...


15

In the US university where I was a TA we were specifically instructed not to get anything worth more then $15 from a student while we are responsible for their grades. Otherwise the student or other students in the group can send a complaint to the dean and accuse you that your grading was biased. In other countries, where customs, policies and procedures ...


14

First: Nothing wrong with you - many of us had/have colleagues they deeply admire and potentially want some kind of personal relationship with (and sometimes that works out), not such an unusual situation. I wish i could request to transfer myself out lol. So why don't you? If there is another TA, you can ask the professor to move. Then ask the TA out ...


13

Not to defend your high teaching load, but yes, heavy teaching loads like these are fairly common for TA's in the US in my discipline (mathematics) and in other disciplines that teach lots of students in general education courses (freshmen composition, world civilization, introductory courses in science, etc.) Keep in mind that Ph.D.'s working as full-...


12

I have some experience with this kind of situation. Two or three times in my career as a professor a student was in a situation similar to yours: too much knowledge to take the course but for various good reasons needed to. I arranged for them to (help me) prepare solutions to hand out and sometimes grade papers. Everyone in the class and in the department ...


10

According to the professor, the marker should solve students' marking issues There you have it. Yes, meeting with students and explaining your reasoning is one of your job duties. Even good graders make mistakes, and even good students sometimes don't understand where they went wrong. I am uncomfortable with those students who insist that marks should ...


10

I personally think it could be managed, but many others would disagree, including some people with direct authority. I think it would be wise if you did a bunch of checking before you take this on. Check with the professors in both courses as well as the department head/chair. If any of them suggest it is a problem, then it is a problem. If all say ok, ...


10

I would politely decline the appointment. I would be uncomfortable with the conflict of interest and, though certainly flattered, uncomfortable with the ethics of and my qualifications to grade a class I was still taking.


9

You should not accept... You would be in an unacceptable conflict of interests if you accept payment directly from one of the students whose work you check and grade. Also, you would likely be violating university bylaws/regulations, and could be subject to disciplinary measures and/or termination as an employee. I'm not saying that will happen, but it's ...


9

The fact that your offer letter says "teaching assistant" without defining it probably does not contractually exclude being assigned as instructor of record (although you could check with a lawyer to confirm this). It's likely that the university does have some written policy somewhere that does define "teaching assistant" to include "instructor of record." ...


9

Telling someone you are grateful for their help with your work is usually a good and kind thing to do. In this case, however, you are not just grateful for their professional contributions, but interested in them as a person, potentially romantically. If your TA was aware of this it would make their job harder: they may worry that you are trying to bias ...


9

Generally if you can't get the R1 job you expect, the "backup plan" in academia is to move down the rankings, which will increasingly want teaching. This means they will probe you about your teaching experience and preparedness, and at some point places will start asking you to deliver a class to students (which needs to be more than just a one-way lecture ...


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