Yale Center for Teaching and Learning

What To Do Before the Course Starts

Talk with Your Faculty Member

In the weeks prior to the beginning of the semester you should meet with the faculty with whom you’ll be teaching. At this meeting, be sure to find out what the instructor views as the goals of the course and how sections will contribute to that goal. If you don’t know already, you’ll probably also find out whether you’re the only TF or one of a dozen. Go over the syllabus, find out what texts you’ll be using (be sure to request “desk” copies, complimentary copies of texts that publishers or bookstores provide for teachers), and ask how much freedom you’ll have in terms of running section: will everyone be running basically the same section, going over the same topics in the same way, or will you have the opportunity to devise your own sections?

Set up a schedule to meet with the instructor and/or other TFs on a regular basis (once every one or two weeks is standard). It might also be useful to know where the peaks and troughs of time commitment will fall during the semester so that you can plan your own work accordingly—you don’t want to be trying to write a conference paper the same week you have to read 100 student essays. Above all, make sure you know what is expected of you.

Five Questions to Ask Your Faculty Member

  1. What are the most important things you want my students to learn in section?
  2. May I see last year’s exams or paper topics?
  3. How much uniformity do you expect among TFs?
  4. Do you have any teaching materials (activities, examples, problems) that I may use?
  5. If you were teaching a section, what would you do?