First Day as a TA

I TA’d my first lab today.

A teaching assistant for Tissue Culture. Not where most Bio related TA’s start, but the only subject I’ve ever liked enough to want to spend more time with.

With a full 4 hour lab behind me, I wanted to share what I learned.

1. They’d rather ask you than the professor.

I was really concerned I was going to seem like I didn’t know what I was doing, or no one was going to want to talk to me. Neither happened.

It’s hard to ask a professor a little question, that’s what you’re there for. Be sure to answer the silly little questions when you can.

2. You aren’t the professor.

In my case, a new professor was placed in charge of the lecture since I had taken the class the previous year. Along with the regime change came new lab notebook requirements, lab reports, and even some new experiments I’ve never done.

It’s not my job to know exactly how to do each experiment, that’s the professor’s. It’s less important to know all the details. Just listen to what the professor says and try to answer the questions they have about that. And they will have plenty of questions about exactly what the professor said.

3. You remember more than you think you do.

I took Tissue Culture a full year ago, and with the exception of a couple times at work over the summer, haven’t touched the subject since. I was shocked at how much came rushing back to me as soon as I stepped into that lab.

I remembered where everything was, how to use the inverted microscope, as well as the little tricks I had picked up in my class.

4. They are that much younger than you.

Most students at my school take Tissue Culture as a sophomore. As a senior, I was afraid I wouldn’t have the authority to lead anything, much less a lab setting. As it turns out, those two years make a difference. I stand out, even if it is just because I’m calmer than they are.

I hope these insights into my first day help someone else’s TAing experience.


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