Skip to main content

Kandice Pardy

SFU Student Graduate
Health Sciences › Global Health

multiple students during a class looking at powerpoint slide
NeONBRAND on Unsplash
Remember to enjoy learning along with your students. They always teach you something new and can help you see material in a new light.

When I was accepted into the Master of Public Health program at Simon Fraser University, never would I have expected that in my first-year I would also become a teaching assistant (TA). I have close friends and relatives who have had the opportunity to TA while in university and all encouraged me to apply. Now ending my first year as a TA, I thought I would share a few helpful tips I’ve learned along the way: 

1. Reach Out to Your Students

I was surprised to find that most students wouldn’t contact me with a question unless a) they had an emergency or b) they already felt comfortable contacting me. I learned that sending out one email to introduce myself wasn't enough. To help students see that I was approachable I sent out emails on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Sending regular emails or reminding students of office hours made me more approachable which helped students feel more comfortable contacting me later in the semester.

2. Highlight the Syllabus

Many students don’t read the course syllabus. I learned this when I had problems with receiving assignments on time later in the semester. To make sure that students know what’s in the syllabus, one of my professors quizzes students on the syllabus content during the first week of class. The quiz doesn’t have to be worth much but should focus on key policies and important assignments that students need to know about. 

3. Take Complaints with a Grain of Salt

If you receive negative feedback, listen but don’t beat yourself up. Learn from it and grow as a TA. Figure out if there’s an issue that affects several students or if it’s an issue that affects one student. If it’s one student, address the concern one-on-one. If the problem seems more widespread, talk to your supervisor about different approaches you can take in your teaching.

4. Work Closely with Your Supervisor

The professor you're assisting is a great resource. When I began working with my supervisor, I never expected that I would develop such a good working relationship with her. She’s given me advice on my coursework and my career. She’s someone who I trust completely and her encouragement has been invaluable. This all stemmed from mutual understanding and respect established when I taught under her supervision.

5. Know the Material

Know the material you’re teaching inside and out. You’ll come off as more knowledgeable if you can answer questions on the spot. And if you don’t know the answer to something, it’s okay to tell your students you’ll look into it and get back to them in the next class.

6. Be Enthusiastic

If you’re interested in the material (and teaching it), this will show. Tell students why the problem you’re working on is interesting or how scientists and thinkers use a concept. Connecting the material to the real world makes it much more engaging for your students.

These tips and resources should help give you a strong start to the new semester. Being a TA can be very rewarding. Remember to enjoy learning along with your students. They always teach you something new and can help you see material in a new light. This will make the semester far more enjoyable for everyone.

Beyond the Blog

  • Thinking of becoming a Teaching Assistant? Find out more information here


Kandice Pardy

SFU Student Graduate
Health Sciences › Global Health
Photo of the author giving a presentation
Creating Value: The Adventures of an IT Co-op Student

As someone who didn’t have a lot of direct experience in a technological setting, providing value to the organization had to come from something much bigger than my direct skill set.

A photo of the author
The 201st Application

It’s been two months and 20 days since my first day of my Co-op term at Westcoast Family Centres, but I still find myself waking up every other day in utter disbelief that things worked out!

You Might Like These... Professional Development, Graduate Students

SFU graduation
Applying to Graduate School: A Students Guide

Someone once said that you should write about what you know. So when I was asked by one of the Peer Education Coordinators to write a career-related blog for their website, I felt compelled to write about the process of applying for graduate school, as I am currently applying for several schools myself.

Ryan Schmidt
Treaty Negotiations with INAC

Being an arts and social sciences student means having a vast variety of career options open to us. One of them being a treaty negotiator at Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)! Read Ryan's blog to find out more about what this position entails. 

Autumn staring out into the distance, with a view of Peruvian mountains in the background
Scholarly Adventures in Peru

Q  & A's with Autumn Mochinski, a student who participated in a funded  international placement with the PAHO/ WHO to prepare an assessment of social  determinants and health and Tuberculosis in Lima, Peru.

You Might Like These... Graduate Students

Aboriginal logo
SFU Aboriginal Graduate Program Support

The Office for Aboriginal People at Simon Fraser University has created a new website to help Aboriginal students navigate the programing, funding and support available to them here at SFU

Person staring at laptop in deep thought or consideration
Applying to Grad School and the Conflicting Advice That Follows

In this article, Kandice explains the frustrating process of grad school applications, and the conflicting advice that inevitably surrounds it. However, there is a key take-away when applying to grad school: Read her article to find out what it is!

Man working on laptop
My Experience as a Web and Data Services Developer at Beedie School of Business

I have had previous experience working with web-based technologies, but mostly in the academic context. Working as a co-op student at the SFU Beedie School of Business, I had the opportunity to work in development, but to also work with business analysts and clients directly, to understand their requirements and implement them. In this post, I explain how this co-op exceeded my expectations.