In the First Lab

you want to make sure to establish expectations, as it can influence the entire term. This being said, don't panic. As panicking will probably not set a good tone.

Don't Panic.

The students are probably more worried about the course, than about you. To help you not panic, prepare notes or have the lab outline handy as a reference point. Rehearsing or stepping through the lab outline prior to the lab is an excellent idea (as was discussed in Preparing for Labs. The more prepared you are, the less likely things are to go wrong.

Be on time, or better yet, be early: Get into the room a bit early if you can — typically 10 minutes before you should have access to the room — to make sure everything is working well.

You are the authority

in the class, but this does not mean that the students should bow before you. Striking a balance between maintaining control of the class and being approachable is one that requires some practice. Some things that can help you strike that balance:

  1. Know your materials, or refer to them as necessary. This ensures you are consistent with the course expectations and standards.
  2. Don't know? Don't lie. Admit you do not know and follow up with the student later with the correct answer.
  3. Being friendly is good, but your goal is not to be your student's friend. You need to maintain a professional distance (more on this in Keeping it Professional).
  4. Set clear expectations of what students can expect from you, and what you expect of them.

Introduce yourself

to your students. Give a bit of background about yourself as it relates to the course, and what the students can expect from you (note the repetition from above). If you are a first-time TA, avoid saying so as it shouldn't matter, and it only invites opportunistic students to cause trouble.

Establishing expectations

has been mentioned a couple of times above, and for good reason. The first lab is the best opportunity for you to let students know how the course will go. Some of the expectations that are good to set in the first lab:

  • Rules for email contact are important, as should students not know what to expect of you, they will say you were unresponsive.
  • Expected conduct in the classroom is also an important one to cover as it helps establish you as an authority in the room.
  • When your office hours are, so that students can actually find you to ask questions or address concerns.
  • What students should talk to you about as opposed to the instructor. This can help save you time by ensuring that students go to the correct authority first.

Next up:

Keeping it Professional