FLL Graduate Teaching Assistant Manual
Welcome to the Foreign Languages and Literature Graduate Program!
Please know that graduate students are an important part of our department and that it is essential that you understand its workings, as well as your responsibilities, in order to have a positive, enriching experience. This also helps to transmit a consistent message to our undergraduate population. This manual is meant to serve as both a guide and a reference for you to successfully navigate the program. It is not meant as a “be all / fix all” document and we anticipate its evolution over time. Please read this in its entirety and always feel welcome to come to the appropriate individuals named within if you have any questions or concerns. We also encourage feedback over the course of your time here so we can assist future graduates in their time of transition. We look forward to working with you.
New Student Orientation
New student orientation usually takes place the week before classes start, or the days before classes start in a semester in which the semester starts on a Wednesday or Thursday. Be advised that there is a NCSU-wide orientation, but the FLL orientation is both separate from this and on a different date, typically the Thursday and Friday before classes begin. Dr. Despain will send you information about online tasks to complete PRIOR to the face-to-face component of the orientation. The FLL orientation is mandatory, but we strongly encourage you to attend the NCSU-wide orientation as well, as there you will receive important information about different, useful resources for graduate students.
A second component of pre-semester meetings in FLL includes a compulsory meeting for all members of the department on the Monday before classes start. This meeting typically begins at 10 am and includes introductions, as well important information about university policies and procedures for those involved in instruction. In the afternoon after the plenary meeting, the French and Spanish sections typically meet to introduce new arrivals and to discuss policies and events relevant to the new academic school year.
The location will be announced during the summer since room availability is always questionable. You will receive advance notice via e-mail, so please be sure to check your NC State email account regularly.
Collecting Teaching Materials
Prior to the beginning of fall semester, you will receive an email from Ms. Susan Navey-Davis (Spanish) or Dr. Valerie Wust (French) providing you with details as to where and when you can pick up your complimentary instructor editions of textbooks and other resources for FLF/FLS 101.
FL 507, or College Teaching of Foreign Languages, is taught each fall semester by Dr. Wust. It is a requirement for TAs, but recommended for all students interested in pursuing work or careers in teaching. It covers theoretical understandings of second language acquisition and the practical application of language learning knowledge to lesson planning, assignment creation, etc. FL 507 is a useful class even for those with prior teaching experience.
Professionalism and responsibilities
As a graduate student (and for some, as a Teaching Assistant), you are representing NC State University to those with whom you come into contact, and acting as a role model for younger and prospective students. If you suspect that a particular item of clothing is inappropriate, err or the side of caution and select something more professional.
It is important to remember that the individuals with whom you are working may well be future colleagues of yours. Always attempt to maintain a professional demeanor when interacting with anyone in the department. This environment is reflective of the work environment outside of the university as well, and at times, you may be required to work with individuals with different perspectives and attitudes than your own. We can all gain from each other and an open mind will really serve you well both here and in the future. And, as always, you are representing FLL and the university on campus and around colleagues. Also, please be careful that any conversations you have with colleagues about your students and/or their performance are not overhead by the students.
TAs should always prioritize showing professionalism and the authority/resource of a faculty member when in front of students, in the office, and around campus. Kindness, patience and understanding of the students is extremely helpful in the classroom, but the most important goal of any class is the transfer of knowledge. As such, faculty and TAs alike maintain the student-teacher relationship and a professional degree of distance from them by focusing on the material and learning objectives. Teaching assistants are encouraged, however, to give advice and guidance when they are able, and be helpful resources for students who want to learn more about the following: the language; the FLL department; a major/minor in a foreign language; extra educational resources related to the language; external cultural or linguistic resources or events; community outreach with foreign language use or practice, etc. In the event that you are unsure how to respond, please refer students to a faculty member or delay your response until you can consult with an appropriate faculty member. Typically, this would be one of the aforementioned individuals.
Emails from the Principal Instructor to the Students
Over the course of the semester, you will be copied on emails to students from the principal instructor. It is important that you read these emails in case a student approaches you with a question about their content. These emails also serve as models that you can use in your future classes.
Lesson Plan and Class Presentation Etiquette
Keep in mind that when you create a lesson plan and accompanying presentation for the class that you are oftentimes not the only one who will be delivering the lesson. Be respectful of your colleagues’ time and send materials in advance so that all may arrive to class prepared. Lesson plans and presentations sent at midnight or in the early hours of the morning are not acceptable. If you happen to lose your connection to the Internet, please make your way to a campus library or computer lab in order to continue working. Our undergraduate students are held to this same standard for completing online activities. Make sure after creating your presentation that you run it in presentation mode to anticipate problems during the lecture. If you did not prepare the lesson plan or presentation for that day, take time to look everything over in case you have questions or need clarification- sometimes the line of thinking or the image selected is not clear from the other’s perspective. Minutes before class begins is not the ideal time to explain how to proceed with an activity. You may use the following checklist to ensure that your presentation is appropriate:
- Does your file name make sense?
- Are your text and visuals clear from everywhere in the room?
- Did you maximize slide space by using widescreen?
- Are there examples or models for students to follow?
- Is there enough variation between teacher-fronting and class activities?
- Did you verify the spelling and grammar?
Behavior Before, During and After Class Time
Please arrive to the classroom approximately ten minutes before the start of class in order to set up, load presentation and field student questions. Your presence is not only important to your colleagues, but to your students as well. All questions about the material and execution of that day’s lesson should be addressed before this point and you should be confident about how to carry out your lecture or activities. Class time is also an opportunity for you to learn along with the students. When you are not teaching, you are observing and making notes about successful classroom practices, those that can be improved, the teaching strategies employed, the student-teacher interaction, questions you have, etc. Keep paper handy so that you access these notes in the future; otherwise, they may vanish when transitioning to the subsequent activity. When closing the class, pack your belongings after most of the students have left. You may have further questions or other duties.
On days when students are testing, your presence is just as important. Do not bring material for other classes or engage in lengthy conversations. Your role is to be vigilant for violations of academic integrity and to be available for student questions.
Teaching in a mega section (and an individual classroom, for that matter) requires tremendous energy. Your voice must carry to the back rows of the classroom, so make your best effort to speak loudly. Students respond to the energy level that you provide; if you exude a high level of energy, your students’ behavior will reflect your own. Center the class by focusing their attention on the day’s goals from the beginning. You can do this by varying warm-ups with speaking, writing, listening, or reading. The laser pointer is a great tool in the classroom when used correctly. Make smooth, deliberate gestures so as not to lose students. The same can be said about slide changes: verify for comprehension or questions before moving on and allow ample time for students to consider.
When Creating Forms of Assessment
When creating or updating forms of assessment, go further than writing the questions. Make sure to also take the assessment to prevent any possible misunderstandings or to correct errors in logic. It is also advisable when working with others to create an accompanying key so that grading is consistent among you and your colleagues.
Office Hours and Tutoring Responsibilities
You are required to maintain three office hours per week. This time is for student visits, class preparation, and administrative tasks. While most communication in the classroom is in the target language, feel free to use your office hours to speak English with students who have specific questions about the course content or your contact with the language and culture. You may also use this time for conversation practice with students using either a class activity or an open conversation depending on the student’s comfort level. Please exercise patience with students especially if they are struggling. Sending students away with the charge of returning when they are more prepared is not how you should address their questions or concerns. Appropriate responses are to review homework, quizzes and assignments, and ultimately to facilitate comprehension and student success.
TAs should note that final grades for their students are officially due no later than 48 hours after the final exam period. However, it is expected that TAs will submit their grades between 2 and 3 days after the class’ final exam. Additionally, being forward and regular with students about when to expect their grades, both the final grade as well as daily grades, will be appreciated by the students and save many e-mails from being written. This can be achieved by creating and maintaining a grade book on Moodle so that students may access their current average at any time. Grading a few assignments with your principal instructor at the beginning of the semester is a good practice to ensure that you and he or she have the same policies and considerations.
Getting Along with Peers
This section applies not only to both TAs sharing an office as well as general graduate students in classes together, as graduate classes are often styled as seminars or require group work in class on projects. Your officemates and classmates are your teammates, and their varied opinions, experiences and perspectives are invaluable resources for your academic and professional growth, as an individual student and as a class. All classmates and officemates should be treated with respect as fellow graduate students, fellow teaching assistants, and fellow colleagues.
In the case of interpersonal issues that need to be resolved, it is recommended that students try to solve problems while maintaining a high level of professionalism and respect for all parties involved. If a problem cannot be appropriately resolved between the two parties involved, it may be wise to call in a third party to mediate a discussion and help find a solution. If the problem stems from the mega section, you may contact either Dr. Despain or Mr. James McConnell (Spanish) or Dr. Wust or Mr. Jeffrey Allen (French), depending on who is the principal instructor. If the problem stems from administration or the office, contact Dr. Wust. Ms. Batta in the main office is also a trained mediator and a great resource for conflict-resolution help if you feel that there will be bias toward a particular party.
Each TA should become well acquainted with the technologies routinely used in NCSU’s FLL classrooms, such as PowerPoints, the document camera (doc cam), muting and unmuting the screen, etc., which will be covered briefly in the New Student Orientation and with which TAs will have the opportunity to practice in the mega sections. It is also useful to ask your colleagues about and share any additional educational technologies that aid in the classroom or can be used for increased student participation, such as the quiz website Kahoot, Padlet, Space Race (socrative.com), etc. NCSU aims to have a technologically up-to-date classroom that is engaging for the students and presents material through various media. Please be sure to make sure that media such as videos, songs, pictures are always appropriate for the college classroom in the given context, and that technology is only used when it can benefit the classroom, and not distract students or take away from the material.
Who Does What in the Department
Ms. Batta is the Graduate Services Coordinator. Her office is Withers 313, in the FLL Main Office, Withers 310, to the right of the main desk. She will contact you for administrative reasons, such as signing your TA contract, etc. and can answer general questions about the graduate program and your studies.
Dr. Despain is the Director of Graduate programs. He presents portions of the New Student Orientation, teaches the fall mega section of FLS101, approves the classes you plan to take, and is available by e-mail for specific questions you have. His office hours and contact information can be found on Dr. Despain’s website.
Primary Instructors of the FLS/FLF 101 Mega Sections
In the fall semester, Dr. Despain teaches the FLS101 mega section, and in the spring semester, Mr. James McConnell assumes this role. For French, Dr. Wust is the principal instructor of FLF 101 in the fall and Mr. Jeffrey Allen does so each spring.
The TA Supervision Team
Ms. Navey-Davis and Mr. McConnell supervise second year Spanish TAs. Dr. Wust supervises second year French TAs and coordinates the entire TA Supervision team. Any questions you have about your TA responsibilities, classroom rules and regulations, or lesson planning can be directed to them.
I Need Help!
Director of Graduate Programs
The Graduate School page can provide important resources for graduate students, such as information for international students, rules and regulations, fellowships and grants, etc., as well as a list of graduate programs.
Coordinator of TA Supervision
Dr. Wust oversees the TA program in Foreign Languages and is available to assist you with any issues that cannot be resolved by the principal instructor of the mega section in which you TA (first year students) or by your language-specific TA supervisor (second year students). If Dr. Wust is unable to assist you, she may refer you to Dr. Gross (Head of FLL).
Head of Foreign Languages and Literatures
The Main Office of FLL is located at Withers 310, on the third floor. Dr. Ruth Gross serves as the Department Head for all languages. Within the office TAs can find the mailroom, as well as the department’s website.
The NCSU counseling center provides various services such as personal counseling, academic counseling, group counseling, career counseling, among others. They are located at the second floor of the Student Health Center. Their address can be found at their website. We recommend all students take advantage of this service when needed, and also try to maintain a healthy lifestyle to aid in managing the sometimes-stressful workload of graduate classes.
Culminating MA Project Advisor
Your Culminating Project Committee Advisor is chosen by you sometime near the end of your first year or the beginning of your second,
Miscellaneous Resources for TAs
On the third floor of Withers there is a kitchen with a refrigerator, microwave and sink. You may access this with your office key. Feel free to store food or drinks there and use the microwave and sink, but please leave the kitchen as clean as you found it. We encourage you to label your food if you plan on leaving it there for longer periods of time, and to not let food sit for longer than a period of two days.
Printer, Fax, and Scanner
On the second and fourth floors there is a fax machine with printing, scanning, and scan-to-e-mail services. Instructions for basic operations are taped to the wall above the printer, and/or you will find a manual near the printer. To use it you will need to swipe your Student ID and log on.
After-hours Access to Withers Hall
To access Withers after hours and on weekends you may enter by holding your Student ID up to the grey “fob” box next to the main doors until the red light turns green and the door opens. Especially when entering late at night, wait for the door to close all the way and lock before proceeding to your office.
After-hours Access to Withers Hall
The FLL Mailroom is located adjacent to the FLL Main Office (Withers 310), and can be accessed from the main hallway with your office key, or by entering the Main office and walking into a side door. Please check your mail every couple of days to avoid missing any important information distributed to you without other indication. Your professors may also leave your assignments in your mailboxes on some occasions, though you will receive notice of this before they do so.