The end of the semester puts pressure on TAs in many ways. In addition to your own research, your students feel pressure as finals approach, and thus they may demand more of your time and energy. However, the end of semester crunch can be made more bearable with some planning.
Make sure your students understand end of semester expectations.
Inform students about the format of final exams and/or projects. Let them know if these requirements will be cumulative or only cover recent material.
Often final exams take place in a different location than where class normally meets. Make sure that students understand where and when their exam will take place.
Be clear and consistent with your grading policies.
To make up for lower grades earlier in the semester, students may ask to turn in late work, or request to complete work for extra credit. If you have agreed to accept late/extra-credit work, then do so. However, do not feel pressured to bend the rules.
Encourage your students to manage time well.
If a project will come due during the final weeks of class, encourage your students to avoid procrastination. Remind students that a little bit of work every day or every week adds up.
Plan ahead to help your students study for final exams.
If possible, hold an in-class review session during the last day of class. This allows students to get their questions answered without having to alter their schedule. It will also give you a feeling for how prepared your students are for the final.
Furthermore, plan ahead to hold review sessions. If other TAs are assigned to the same course as you, you may choose to cross-advertise review sessions to accommodate more students’ schedules.
Clarify grading expectations.
If you are teaching for another professor, make sure that your grading standards are consistent with those of your professor and with other TAs for the course. If you will be expected to do a lot of grading, don’t necessarily expect yourself to grade it all at once; grade in small batches as needed.
Schedule time to get your own work done.
Your teaching is important, but your research is your primary focus. Despite student demands, make sure to plan ahead for uninterrupted time to keep up with your own deadlines. Remember that you must continue to make progress on your research to maintain your appointment as a TA.
Schedule time away from work.
Although your students’ needs and your own work will most likely require a large amount of time and energy, remember to take some time to relax as well. If you reach the point of exhaustion or become sick, it will be even harder to assist students or make progress on your research.
Make sure to be aware of your own needs and to take care of yourself as you push towards the end of the year. If needed, contact your advisor, department chair, or dean for help. Also, the Rutgers counseling center is readily available to discuss any confidential concerns you may have during this stressful time of the year.
(This re-post originally appeared on 10/16/2015)