As a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA), you are no longer a student, but a faculty member. You will, perhaps for the first time, be in a position of power in the classroom. And of course, with that power comes responsibility. How much responsibility you have will depend on the role you play in the classroom: are you an instructor of record? A lab or recitation leader? A course facilitator, assistant, or grader?
Make sure to discuss your role in the classroom with your advisor or department administrator. After you have a more complete understanding of your role, you will need to familiarize yourself with four essential policies.
1. Academic Honesty
Auburn University’s academic honesty policy was designed by students. It’s fair and effective. It’s very important that you report instances of academic dishonesty for two reasons: students make mistakes and getting caught gives them a chance to learn to be better and not reporting cheating devalues the degree you yourself are working so hard to earn.
The key thing to know about the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is that student records (aka student grades) are confidential. You cannot share any information about a student’s grades with their parents, other students, or other peers (i.e. posting on social media, talking about how a football player or other notable student is doing in your course, etc.). Doing so can result in serious legal consequences.
3. ADA Accommodations Policy
Auburn is a big place and we have a lot of different students with different abilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) policy ensures that students receive equitable access to instruction and evaluation. Every syllabus for every class is required to contain an ADA Policy statement so that students who need accommodations learn how to request them. As a new instructor, you should become familiar with the concept of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). As you take on the responsibility for designing your own courses, it is a best practice to adhere to UDL practices to ensure your course is engaging, equitable, and accessible for all learners.
4. Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct Policy
As a GTA you are in a position of power over the students in your course; thus, you cannot have romantic relationships with them because of the risk of coercion. Ignoring Auburn’s Title IX policy is one of the fastest ways to lose your Assistantship. Likewise, your own advisor and professors are forbidden from engaging in romantic relationships with you while you are their student or advisee. If you are the victim of sexual or gender-based misconduct, the Title IX Coordinator, Kelly Taylor, is your ally. Reach out to her. You will not be penalized or discriminated against for standing up for your rights.
The Biggio Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning supports all Auburn University instructional staff, including GTAs. The Biggio Center offers numerous professional development opportunities and resources for graduate teachers including: workshops on teaching; an online Preparing Future Faculty course and workshop series to help graduate students prepare for careers in the academy; and feedback on teaching through course observations, online surveys, or student focus groups.