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I’ve got TAs!

February 7, 2011

Huge thanks to Danny Caballero for connecting me with two undergrads at Georgia Tech, A and Z, who are interested in teaching physics, and need to spend some time in a classroom as part of an education class they’re taking. At first, I thought they would only be visiting a few times in the semester, but it turns out Tech requires 4 hours/wk! My mind is overflowing with all the cool stuff we’re going to be able to do.

Anyway, since this is the first time I’ve ever worked with Teaching Assistants, I thought I’d reach out to the followers on this blog for a few tips.

  1. If you were ever an assistant teacher in a classroom, what were some of the things that made the experience most meaningful for you? If you ever had a teaching assistant in your classes, what idd you do to make the experience most meaningful for the assistant(s)?
  2. As awesome physics majors Z and A probably have tons of career opportunities before them besides teaching. For those of you who got into physics teaching, what drew you in? Why did you stay with teaching?
  3. What one piece of advice would you give to a new teacher taking his first steps into a teaching career?
4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 7, 2011 8:19 pm


    Need to read the book by Hal Portner, Mentoring New Teachers. He gives very good and succinct advice–build relationships, coach them, guide them, give constructive feedback, help them observe practice, give them experiences in different aspects of classroom life, and model the kind of teacher you would want them to be.

    Again, let me know if I can be helpful.


  2. February 8, 2011 12:45 pm

    Maybe understanding why someone would leave teaching will help. Twenty years ago, I went back to the corporate world after a frustrating student teaching experience. I’d taken a 1 year science teacher certification program at a local University – a program designed to help those in industry move into the teaching field.

    As a student teacher, I took on too much – I took on all the cooperating teacher’s classes for a full semester. My cooperating teacher did not “mentor” – she disappeared. When I encountered students who were consistently threatening to me & others or otherwise disruptive in class, my cooperating teacher told me it is of no use to contact the parents, that the administration does not look favorably on you if you send students in their direction… and she gave me no advice how to manage those students.

    I was to inexperienced to realize that classroom control is probably one of the most difficult parts of the job to master or where to go to gather that kind of experience. I was too inexperienced to realize that not all learning environments are the same, so did not really consider trying another district or private school. So, with ideals crushed I headed back to the corporate world.

    I guess I would say that any novice teacher should go into teaching understanding the major pitfalls and strategies for resolving. I would tell any teacher starting out to identify mentors who can help you through the most difficult issues and to remember that schools have different approaches and cultures and that these differences can make your experience as a teacher more or less fulfilling. So, seek out a place that is a best fit your teaching style & approach.


    • February 10, 2011 12:07 am

      This is great advice. I hope my TA’s wont have an experience like yours. The structure of my school makes discipline problems a non issue, and there won’t be any times when I disappear and leave my TA’s to fend for themselves. Hopefully, I can be a good mentor to them, and luckily we have a strong network of physics teachers in my city form them to connect with and learn about many different types of schools.

  3. February 12, 2011 10:32 am


    First of all, I’m very happy that these two fellas get to work with such a great teacher. You are really helping them get a fantastic start to what I hope will be two phenomenal teaching careers.

    The other thing I’d like to say is one thing I’ve noticed about folks like you, Frank, and Dan Meyer is that you are constantly trying new things, assessing what and how students learned, and revising for the next time. I hope you can help these fellas adopt that iterative design procedure.

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