Tasks for a Journalism Teaching Assistant: FERPA Style

Many of us are lucky enough to have students as teaching assistants. Some of us have students with too much time on their hands. What meaningful work can they do that still respects all policies of your school, district or federal government?

Each year, I have one or two seniors with an empty block. At our school, they can become a TA (teaching assistant) for a teacher of their choice. Each teacher may only have one or two TAs.

 Here’s a few ideas that have worked for me over the years:


  • Straighten the room. Cleaning is for the custodial staff. But a TA could sharpen your pencil supply, straighten items in the room, rotate the posters on the classroom walls for a fresh look or a new unit.
  • Our custodians won’t clean inside a fridge or microwave – so my TA often has. They also keep the coffee pot clean and ready to go for late work nights.
  • They also let me know when we need more paper plates or cutlery for work nights. One staff was big on popcorn, so the TA kept an eye on that stock too.
  • Have your TA update your bulletin or white boards. They can cut out materials. We have a bulletin board outside the library. Over the years, the TA has made a board sharing all the Twitter handles for every sport, activity or teacher in the building, a board celebrating graduates who had used their journalism skills in their careers from a radiology technician (former photo editor) to an ABC News reporter, and another printed second copies of the entries students were taking to the fall JEA/NSPA national journalism convention and wished the travelers well – there’s lots of ways to keep your classroom fresh and your hallway board promoting your program to potential students.
  • A TA can make new posters for the classroom. Mine have made posters about the parts of a four-part caption, eight things to check on your gear before leaving to shoot a video, specs for lettering in journalism, a laminated rotation schedule for television show duties and more.

 Assignment Prep:

  • Make copies. Staple packets. Highlight essential info in a set of instructions.
  • Give them an old presentation. Have them update it. My TA recently said the PowerPoint I had for interviews was dated, so she reorganized the information – hers was much more concise and even had a guided practice for her staff to use at the end!
  • Have them proofread your next units or assignments. Ask them if they were confused at any point. They’ll be brutally honest; and your students will be better off.
  • A TA may make great mini-lessons for their staffers. I’ve sometimes used them for the Journalism 1 courses in addition to my lessons.
  • Give them a Q/A bank and ask them to build online games for your class.


  • Check camera, mic and tripod inventory against inventory lists.
  • Add new inventory to the list. Add labels, record serial numbers, etc.
  • Create a shopping list of missing/broken/repair needs.
  • Charge all batteries.
  • Remove all cards and batteries and pack gear for summer storage.
  • Years ago, my TA mixed darkroom chemicals under supervision, told me when we needed to order more, cleaned the lab equipment, plus kept the space ready to use.
  • Now, my TA tests the gear that other students report isn’t working properly or is broken. They let me know what should be done as far as repair or replacement.


  • Ideally, your TA serves their class period during a class where they could help you by tutoring or reteaching students who need extra help on an assignment or an entire unit. Maybe a student has been out for some time, your TA can help them catch up while you keep moving with the rest of the students.
  • When you have a new student assignment, have them create the example of student work for it.


  • Several years worth of my TAs have been doing research and helping me collect information for a “History of OP Journalism Department” web page that we one day hope to add to our news site.
  • One of my TA took the piles of critique certificates for the publications, every year of staff photos and created a set of three-ring notebooks with plastic sleeves that store all the honors, a by-publication staffer list and staff photo for every student media staff in history.
  • Prior to the district using online locations for unlimited storage, my TA would copy all files from the school servers to external drives for us.

Publication work:

  • Proofread pages/spreads/stories/rough edits of videos, etc. Leave feedback for staffers.
  • Check grade levels and spelling of names on spreads, pages or graphics.
  • Run fact checks.
  • Deliver slips to students who are in the yearbook but haven’t purchased a book yet.
  • Do additional coverage – shoot more academic photos. When I advised yearbook, I often asked staffers for interviews they were behind on so my TA could do the interviews and provide notes for them to finish their work.
  • One started an online catalog of past yearbook inventory so we can sell back issues to alumni. The alumni Facebook page will share it during reunion season and again during the holidays.
  • Create Playlists on the show’s YouTube channel. “Best of…” or “All live shows…” or “StuCo stories…”


  • Have them create a Spotify playlist for your class or work time.
  • Have them plan team building opportunities for in and out of class times. One of mine knew a staffer’s dad was a competitive griller in a BBQ team, soon we were playing driveway basketball and he grilled for their staff potluck. Another TA had a connection to a local summer camp. We were able to use a cabin off-season and she led the staff through the ropes trust course!


  • Last year, my TA said she wished we had a banner in the gym like the sports, so people knew how awesome past staffs were when they’d earned All-State or national-level honors. Next, I gave her access to a 2002 staff manual where the past adviser had made a list of every award up to that point in school history. She then researched the last 17 yearbooks and staff scrapbooks to create a list, so we are ready to make that poster to honor “State Winners.”
  • Have them shoot or pull photos of the staffers at work. This could be to compile a video or slideshow for your end-of-year banquet or to use as recruitment tools during enrollment.
  • Have them archive great photography for using during showcases, student work examples, or for administrators to use. My TA assisted our Activities Director in choosing photos that were used in wall collages at the building’s entrances.

I wish you all the best as you work with your teaching assistants. They can learn a lot about journalism, teaching and you. While you, as a busy teacher, have a few more minutes in your day to work on something you’ve really wanted to do. Win-win.