Frequently Asked Questions (and the Answers)

[Last updated December 2006]

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Should I attend classes?

It is up to the instructor to decide whether you should attend the classes or not. If you attend classes, you will be better in sync with the class, you will be able to develop your own perspective on the material. Last but not least, the time after class is perfect to meet the students and let them know that you exist. They might even be lured into coming to your office hours.

When should I set my office hours?

If the class is followed by SITN students, one TA should have an office hour sometime after 6pm, so that hard working people can come by after work.

Whether we like it or not, students tend to do their homework at the last minute. If you set an office hour the day before the homework is due, around 4pm, chances are that you will have a very busy time.

Another opinion: Setting office hours right before due date is convenient for those who procrastinate. However, it also encourages procrastination. There are a couple good reasons for having office hours a little in advance of due dates:

Should I prepare homeworks?

A teaching assistant should not prepare homeworks, except in exceptional cases. A homework has to be very well thought out to be in synchronization with the class, and it is also extremely hard and lengthy to design good homeworks. Bad homeworks make students bored with the material and don't make them learn anything.

If the instructor asks you whether you would like to design the homeworks, think very carefully about it, and whether you are up to the job. In all cases, you should not feel obliged to accept, as this is an integral part of the normal instructor work. It is better not to take this responsibility, but to give occasional ideas for good homework questions.

Should I prepare solutions?

Yes, if the instructor doesn't have them already. It is a good idea to prepare solutions in the light of the errors you saw the most often made while grading. At the end of a solution, you may list typical mistakes and the reason why these are mistakes, so that students learn by the mistakes made by others (you will at the same time reduce the number of requests for regradings).

How to use the Xerox machine?

You should ask Dana Halpin ( for the Xerox code that is to be used for the class. This code works on all xerox machines in the Gates building. For big xerox jobs, it is recommended to use the fastest Xerox (Gates 185). The standard paper there has three holes, something that neat students appreciate.

Can we get one more TA for the class?

There is a standard formula for computing the number of TAs assigned to a class (see the TA assignment policy). Make sure that you have the alloted number of TAs for your class. Often, it is necessary to wait until the first homework is turned in to get an exact count of the number of students in the class, before requesting an additional TA.