Thursday, 31 March 2011

Summing up the TA Experience

I led my final seminars of the term yesterday, so I thought I'd write-up a few thoughts on my first TA-ship.
1) I learned so much. It made me really think about getting students to talk, about keeping them on task, about teaching in general. There were definitely times when I thought to myself, "They're all just staring, and nobody's saying anything. What do they want from me?!" But now I think I've figured that out: they all want different things. You have to learn the dynamics of the class and cater to their style. What worked in my morning group would fail to engage my afternoon group, so I learned to change the lesson (and my overall style) a bit for them.

2) First-years need some basic instructions, but they really will rise to the occasion when challenged. It's about finding a balance--don't go too easy on them because they're only 18, but don't expect them to be at a postgrad level, either. I think that once you've set guidelines and instructions, they really can surprise you with great responses. They just don't know what you're looking for until you tell them--it's their first year!

3) I definitely want to stay in academia. Even when it wasn't easy, it was always rewarding, and the whole experience has convinced me that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. My favourite teachers throughout the years all had one thing in common: they loved teaching. They were brilliant at it, and that's why students got so much from their classes, but at the end of the day, it was their passion that made them such great teachers. Mr. Johnson, one of my favourite high school teachers, wrote on his Facebook wall the other day to a former student that in his 35+ years of teaching, he never went to work one day--he went to school. I love that idea...

And, if this all seems way too positive, it's because I'm trying to keep it professional. Yes, some students did frustrate me, but I'm keeping those rants private. Unlike this woman--
This high school English teacher blogged her frustrations and went way beyond "unprofessional", calling students "rude, lazy, disengaged whiners." Now she's suspended during an investigation. Yikes!

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