LEARN EVERYONE’S NAME AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE

Students feel good about their teaching assistant (TA) when he/she can fluently address them by their first names. They think that TAs who simply point and ask “what’s your name again?” for the 10th time . It does take some effort to learn everyone’s names, and you’ll have to ask everyone to repeat their names several times during the first few classes, but once you remember them all, it’s so great to be able to greet everyone as individuals.

WHEN YOU ARE TALKING IN FRONT OF THE CLASS, MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH EVERYONE

Don’t simply talk to the board or to the wall behind your students. Glance around and look them in the eye as you are talking, scanning around to focus on different students so that you don’t seem to always be staring at one person the whole time. When writing on the board, adopt an open stance and face the class as much as possible instead of having your back to them. This will prevent you from mumbling to the board and actually force you to engage your students and notice when there are questions or points of confusion.

CHECK FOR UNDERSTANDING AND ATTENTION

Because you will often receive blank stares while you are talking in front of the class, you need to periodically stop every few minutes and check whether the class is following along with you. This might involve asking a technical question or simply pausing and asking the class “do you all understand this part?” and waiting for nodding or shaking heads. If you want to find out who does not understand, don’t simply request, “if you don’t understand, please raise your hand,” because that might single out and embarrass some students; instead, be a bit self-deprecating and say something like, “I found this topic to be really confusing when I first learned it, and many people have trouble grasping the details, so does anyone want me to go over it again?”

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