Teaching Assistant Responsibilities

The most important responsibility of the teaching assistant is conducting section meetings. This includes preparation for the meetings and conducting the sections in a professional manner. The main purpose of the sections is to answer students’ questions about the methods needed to do the homework. (You should not work on any section problems that are still due.)

Every effort will be made so that your TA section assignments will not conflict with mathematics courses being offered. This is primarily done by not assigning math courses during the parts of Thursdays and Fridays that discussion sections are held. However, we cannot schedule around courses that other departments offer. If you have conflicts with such courses, it is your responsibility to find a suitable TA who will trade sections with you. This change of scheduling must be acceptable to the professors involved and to the chair and/or director of undergraduate studies. If you cannot find a suitable substitute, you will not be allowed to take the outside course and must TA the section that you have been assigned.


Because the main purpose of the section is to answer students’ questions, it is essential that teaching assistants know how to do and explain all assigned homework exercises. It is therefore necessary that all teaching assistants prepare solutions to all assigned exercises in detail before section meetings, and have a plan as to how to explain these solutions to the student. It is inexcusable for a teaching assistant to be asked a homework question and not know how to solve it, or to waste time fumbling through calculations, which should have been worked out during preparation.

Professional Conduct

A teaching assistant cannot be effective in the classroom if he or she appears to regard his or her duties lightly. We expect you to act as dedicated professionals. This includes arriving at your assigned sections a few minutes before your scheduled time, and keeping the students occupied for the full scheduled time. In your preparation for your section, you should also prepare extra examples and activities for the class in the event that they do not have enough questions to fill the time.

Lack of preparation and unprofessional conduct undermine the efforts of the entire department. There simply is no room for poor teaching due to lack of preparation or unprofessional conduct. The director of undergraduate studies and the chair will investigate reports and complaints by students of TAs being late, rude, or unprepared. Substantiated neglect of duty can result in full or partial rescinding of the teaching assistantship.

Grading Responsibilities

The other main responsibility of the teaching assistant is to grade all work done by the students, and to record those grades. This includes being available to help proctor and grade exams for the course that you are assisting. We expect teaching assistants to be on time for all grading sessions, proctoring assignments, and other meetings scheduled by instructors, and to check their mailboxes and email regularly to stay in contact with the instructor. If for some reason you are unable to attend a grading session, you must find a suitable replacement.

When English Is a Second Language

An international student with a teaching assistantship is generally assigned to be a full-time grader during her or his first year in the department. All such students must enroll in the course 370.601-602 Communication Strategies in the American Classroom. Proficiency in communication in English must become of sufficient level that the student be judged ready to conduct sections in the fall of the second year. A student who fails to meet this standard will be considered in neglect of responsibility, and have her or his financial support reduced each year until the deficiency is corrected. Johns Hopkins University offers an English for International TAs program.


If an emergency prevents you from meeting any of your scheduled obligations, you must find a substitute, or, if that is not possible, notify the department (410-516-7397 or 410-516-7399) at least 30 minutes before the scheduled time.