Adapted from Kansas State University 2000
One of the first things you learn as a student is that there are never enough hours in a day to do everything. As a result, the first major skill you acquire is that of time management. You will need to learn how to juggle appointments, classes, committee meetings, office hours, social functions, reading, writing, family, friends, pets, bills, and the kitchen sink. While the occasional juggling ball may drop, here are some practical tips to help you keep most of them in the air:
Do not procrastinate or allow yourself to fall behind!
The amount of reading will, conservatively, triple. The motto is “a book a day – that’s all we ask!” Remember, no one will be prompting you to do it. You must be self-motivated. If you do not understand something, ask! Do not wait until after an assignment due-date or exam to ask for help. So what do you do? “Preventive action” has a lot to do with it. The two most important tools are time management and organizational skills.
“Creative clutter” vs. complete disorganization
If your office/work space looks like a public health and safety hazard or if you are perpetually late for appointments and classes, it is probably time to re-think your organizational strategies.
There is a difference between “creative clutter” and complete disorganization. Creative clutter has a purpose and an order, whether the rest of the world realizes it or not. The difference between the two is apparent when you cannot find what you need to function. Here are a few ideas to get started:
Keep file folders. Put class preparations and assignments in designated folders, as well as your own project materials and paperwork.
Use calendars of all shapes and sizes. Keep a personal calendar on your person at all times, either paper or on a mobile device, to keep track of appointments and activities. Hang wall calendars in your office and home with projected time lines for the semester. Electronic calendars such as those on Outlook and Google will sync between your mobile device and your computer.
Make TO DO lists. These lists help you to focus on what is most important to accomplish at any given point in time and to organize your time and space accordingly. OneNote and Evernote are two electronic options.
Take time to organize and plan. Schedule the time for filing and scheduling.
Do not forget to eat and sleep! Get six to seven hours of sleep every night, exercise three to four times a week, and eat regular, healthy meals.
Think practically: your teaching assistantship is dependent upon successful completion of your own coursework. When establishing priorities, your coursework comes first.
As a beginning TA, you should remember that you have a great resource at your disposal in the event that you have questions or run into problems – other, more experienced students. They may be very helpful in letting you know how your department “runs,” in the informal sense of whom to ask for specific kinds of information, about who can provide you needed resources (e.g. scannable answer sheets, pencils, etc.), or services such as photocopying.
Fellow students can be great “sounding boards” for your concerns as a new TA. Your more experienced fellow students may also have quite a few suggestions about how to run a discussion or lab section or how to deal with students. Asking them about their classroom experiences may be a way to anticipate or resolve problems in your own discussion, lecture, or lab setting. They may also have suggestions for ways to negotiate the relationship between TAs and faculty members and provide advice for dealing with difficult situations which might arise.