How To Become a TA at The University of Toronto

TA woman smiling holding a leaf
Photo by Vinicius Wiesehofer via Unsplash

You can become a teaching assistant during your undergraduate and graduate experience at the University of Toronto. If you have demonstrated excellence in your academics and want to extend your abilities towards helping others, then a TA position may be the perfect fit. Here is a list of things you should know about being a TA at the University of Toronto.

1) Knowledge vs. Personality

Knowledge is one factor and personality is another. Many times, there seems to be an imbalance on this scale. The highest quality TAs are the ones who are both knowledgeable and able to communicate well. It also helps to have a background in the specific course and program. This can provide the TA with another level of understanding and how to grade with proper discretion. If you are considering a TA position at the University of Toronto, it is important to hold yourself to a high standard of integrity. The worst TAs are the ones who take the role to get paid and then do the bare minimum for their students. This includes providing one-line answers, being cold towards others, or bragging about being a TA. Students need someone who can guide them confidently. This is an unwritten truth of being a TA at the University of Toronto.

Rumour has it that the requirement consists of a bold personality and presence, such as being talkative and friendly with professors. This is unethical to students taking the course. Academic merit combined with applicable knowledge and the ability to effectively research and teach others should be prioritized when screening applicants. If you are ever asked directly to TA for a course, make sure it is ethical for you to do so, not just for your own sake, but for the students. You must be comfortable in this position of leadership and responsibility.

2) Graduate Students

Many graduate students, or students applying to graduate school, are either required to or are interested in becoming a TA. The pay is good, so this alone means that the applicant pool will be vast. Knowing that there are already many graduate students, it can become difficult to match every TA with their requested course. As a result, even if the TA has the bare minimum knowledge on the topics in question, they may be deemed as qualified enough. This leads to inconsistency in teaching and a major disconnect in the comprehension of the content. If someone grading your work does not fully understand the content themselves, it can be a scary experience. As a TA, please be aware of the possibility.

There will likely be some efforts to match TAs to courses that they are knowledgeable in. However, in the end, other requirements leading to mismatching and low-quality TAs are bound to occur. This includes requirements such as the number of hours a TA is obligated to have, leading them to positions that they may not necessarily qualify for. It is so important to be an advocate for yourself and try your best to match with a course that suits your knowledge. If this does not happen, it may cause additional stress for you and your students.

3) Undergraduate Students

As an undergraduate trying to become a TA, it is competitive to get the course you want. If you are a second year undergraduate student, you can definitely become a TA! But keep in mind that graduate students have the priority. So you have to prove yourself a little more. Knowledge of the course material is major, and your demonstration of recent/future research may also be a factor. Sometimes showing your willingness to learn or your excellence at things like pop quizzes can get you noticed. Your overall grade for the course does not need to be perfect for you to become a TA. In some cases, high grades in that course, or in other courses, may be enough to distinguish you as a candidate. You might not need a high cumulative GPA to qualify. In other cases, you do not need to have taken the course prior.

With so many inconsistencies in the requirements across the faculties of the University of Toronto, the chances of becoming a TA are higher than you might expect. 

4) Extra Responsibilities

TAs are students. Many have work or other obligations throughout their day. They have expectations they have to reach and are given extra responsibilities. It is important to have respect and empathy for your TAs. Understand the amount of responsibility you’ll have upon becoming one yourself. Some TAs say that students frequently ask them to bump up their grades hours before the final exam as a last-ditch effort, despite students barely showing any effort during the course. This is unfair to a TA. Therefore, if you want to become a TA, you have to be ready to firmly stand your ground. Additionally, class sizes at the University of Toronto can be gigantic with hundreds of students to grade through. So imagine undertaking that task in the middle of your own exam period as a TA!

TAs can be a great resource, and you can become a fantastic TA if you are resourceful. If you truly make an effort to have respect and integrity in all that you do, then consider becoming a TA. Best wishes as you decide on whether becoming a teaching assistant is right for you! Interested in doing more? Check out Why You Should Become a Mentor.

Published on January 5, 2021

About Tashiana Lusterio

Tashiana is an architecture graduate working in the field of architectural design. She enjoys illustrating, translating envisioned projects into built realities, and creating electronic dance music on the piano.