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New blog provides valuable resource for ASU teaching assistants

Meghan Nestel
April 07, 2015

Graduate teaching assistants at Arizona State University have created a resource to solve classroom challenges in Diary of a New TA, a peer-to-peer blog for new and experienced teaching assistants to ask questions and share advice, tips and techniques.

The blog helps answer questions that new teaching assistants may find themselves asking, such as:

• What should I wear to teach?

• How do I handle a noisy classroom?

• How do I establish a rapport with students and keep them interested in the syllabus?

Meghan Nestel and a group of her peers came up with the idea while attending teaching assistant training for ASU’s Department of English.

“The idea was that Diary of a New TA will allow those who do not have a large support network or resources to have access to an area where they can ask questions and see what worked for others in the past,” said Nestel.

She further developed the blog with help from ASU's Graduate Education department. The blog covers topics from the first day, including what to wear and classroom management, to student-professor communication.

“I read some tips on the first-day teaching before entering the classroom,” said Sunyoung Lee, an international teaching assistant in the Department of English. For her, discovering that the first day can be nerve-wracking for all teachers was a relief, and she appreciates reading what ideas worked best for other assistants.

“I knew that it would be a great challenge to deal with American students as a foreign teacher and to balance teaching between teaching and my own research,” said Lee. “However, I didn’t expect that students would complain so much about the amount of assignments and their grades as well as my English.”

Lee said that the blog helped her understand that it takes time and experience to create a productive relationship with students, and gave her specific tips on how to deal with student complaints and other first-semester issues.

No names or personal information are posted on the blog. Teaching assistants can share their experiences, whether positive or negative, by submitting anonymously in writing or by video if they choose.

Still very new, the majority of contributions have come from ASU’s Department of English. With a teaching and resident assistant population of around 3,000, Nestel hopes to attract more contributions from a wider range of teaching assistants, including international assistants and research assistants.

“My hope is that this blog will also be able to help TAs at other universities, not just ASU,” said Nestel.

by Lizzy Ackerman, Provost Communications intern