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Welcome, the Legionnaires of the Lab of Dynamic Discord(1). Following is a quick review of the administrivia--your basic duties outside the lab, as well as the rules of lab coverage. You will probably be brainwashed enough about this in LA meetings.


Timecards are picked up in the Course VI administrative office, 38-445. This is also where you go at the beginning of the term (regardless of whether you LAd the term before or not) to fill out the forms necessary to get you on payroll. Timecards should be filled out and signed by the LA and dropped off in a pendaflex folder in the top drawer of the filing cabinet in the lab by the end of the day on Friday (if you have lab hours on weekends, go ahead and claim them ahead of time, as long as you plan to make them). The head TA or LA will sign them and turn them in for you by 10:00 the following Monday morning so that you can get paid the following Friday. The anal-retentive administrators downstairs request that you indicate and circle the total number of hours you worked, as a check on their addition skills. Also, you should sign your timecards, not in the place supplied for the head TA/LA signature, but to the right of that space, under the lower right hand corner of the time table.

In addition, for the purposes of monitoring Fnord! your work more effectively (although the Eye in the Pyramid is always watching(2), the head LA will check over your timecards to make sure the hours you claimed are reasonable--just in case), please make sure your timecard makes it clear what the numbers on it represent. Specifically, write LAB to the right of the hours you spent in the lab, MEET by the hour of the LA meeting, and PREP by the hours of preparation--i.e., doing the problem sets and checking over the solutions. If you were covering the lab hours for someone else, you might want to indicate the name of that person as well. On the weeks of the quiz reviews, write REVIEW by the hours you spent giving the review.

As the above makes clear, an LA is paid not only for lab coverage, but also for attending the LA meetings, doing the problem sets, and, occasionally, giving the quiz reviews.(3) Each of these will be discussed in the following sections.

Lab Hours

Time slots for lab duties are selected at the first Lab Assistant meeting, at the beginning of the term. The sign-ups are traditionally done by seniority, based on the number of terms as a Lab Assistant (LAs that have served the same sentence receive priority based on their class year), although usually everyone is reasonable enough that any serious conflicts can be worked out quickly and easily without too much bloodshed. Once the lab hours are assigned, they are your responsibility for the rest of the term. The head LA keeps the schedule of the lab coverage; it is also put on the blackboard on the back of the lab.

Be prompt. It is always a good idea to show up ten to fifteen minutes ahead of time and spend the extra time making sure nothing and nobody is dead, catching up on the new developments, assessing the situation, meditating, etc.---see Chapter 2 for details.

Be prepared. This means you should be familiar with the problem set the students are working on to the extent that you can help them understand it and catch their bugs--and that, you will find, requires a pretty good preparation.

If you find that you have a permanent schedule conflict, try to find another LA who can either take your hours or trade with you, talk to the head LA, or bring it up in the LA meeting.

Similarly, if you cannot make a shift, it is your responsibility to get a replacement. Please start looking for one early, if at all possible. You can either get someone to "koppel"(4) your hours or trade them. This is relatively easily accomplished by sending out e-mail several days before your shift, but last minute cancellations are usually more of a problem. If you cannot find anyone who would koppel your hours, let the head LA and the head TA know. There have been precedents of graduate TAs and even lecturers coming in to help out.

Don't ever punt your lab hours. Your lab hours are your responsibility. If you punt them, you are shafting hordes of 6.001 students who are eager for your guidance and advice, and bringing dishonor to the 6.001 staff, the EECS department, MIT, and the entire quadrant of the galaxy. You will be hunted down, dealt with, and dogs will eat your bones.

If a last-minute distraction should arise, for example, if you are kidnapped by space aliens on your way to the lab, be sure they let you make a phone call to the head TA or lecturer and leave a message reporting the emergency.

In other words, be very responsible about this. Everybody has problems from time to time, and nobody expects you to be perfect, but you are expected to arrange for someone to cover your hours at all times, even if you are feeling particularly imperfect.

LA meetings

The weekly LA meeting (with the head TA, and sometimes one of the lecturers, present) is scheduled at the beginning of the term, hopefully to fit into everyone's schedule. As mentioned before, you get paid for this hour long meeting (needless to say, you don't get paid if you don't show up). Make every attempt to attend all of the meetings. If there's a conflict, let the head LA and/or head TA know.

In the meeting, the upcoming problem sets (and sometimes solutions) are handed out and discussed. Also, this is your chance to give the rest of the 6.001 staff your feedback on how things are going in the lab and what specific problems students are having with the material.


You also get paid for no more and no less than two hours for preparation every week a problem set is given out (the early ones usually take much less than two hours, the late ones take longer, so it all balances out). Draft problem sets are given out to you in the meeting at least a week before they go out to the students. Do every problem set (not just glance at it, really do it) as soon as it is handed out to you. This is not only to prepare you for your lab hours, but also to catch bugs and judge the difficulty of assignments. You will normally be given draft solutions as a reference (not a crutch) which you should also eventually read over carefully so we can catch bugs in these too. Send your bug reports to 6001-feedback@sicp-00.mit.edu.

If you missed the LA meeting where the problem set was given out, some extra copies are usually available in the top drawer of the filing cabinet. If not, you can always get one from the course secretary.

At the beginning of the term, course notes, a copy of this manual, the "Don't Panic" manual, Revised 4th Report on Scheme (R4RS), and two floppy disks are given out to every LA. Read the manuals at least briefly. If you want to keep the problem set solutions you hack up in the lab, use your floppies to store them; do not leave your code in some random temporary directory you created.

Quiz Reviews

LAs are usually responsible for organizing and executing review sessions before the quizzes (and sometimes the final). In the past, these have been done in many different ways. Usually, the course material is divided into sections which are then allocated to an LA or two, and the allocated LAs prepare a few examples of problems which demonstrate the ideas in their section. Preparation for the review takes place of otherwise cancelled prep hours for that week (no problem sets are due on the week of the quiz), and the hours you spend doing the review can be claimed as well.

Mailing Lists

You should be prepared to check your mail a lot---at least, once a day during the week. You will need it to stay up-to-date. Besides, since you will be on a couple of mailing lists listed below, not checking your mail may prove fatal--for example, if your mailbox lives on Anathema, you may go over your quota. And you really don't want to read through thirty--forty--fifty 6.001-related messages alone at a time.

Following are the e-mail addresses of the major cliques and conspiracies behind 6.001. All the bugs you (or students) find as well as reports of the problems you find within the system should be sent to 6001-feedback. Matters of relevance to the LAs are addressed through 6001-las; please don't use 6001-staff for this purpose, but do use it when you wish to illuminize the entire staff on some issue. Those are probably the only three you'll ever use; the rest are there for reference.

the lecturers

the course secretary

the recitation instructors

the graduate TAs

the head TA

the head LA

the Little Deluded Dupes themselves

the entire staff: lecturers, recitation instructors, TAs, LAs, and course secretary

people who should know about/are responsible for fixing bugs; includes lecturers and LAs but also people in charge of the system and the lab, for example; this is also the mailing list the students use to report bugs and register complaints--it may get quite hectic at times

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