What It’s Like Being A New TA

You’re in grad school! But you’ve got to teach undergrads… How hard could that be?

1. Grad school! A place where you’re paid to learn!

2. There’s a catch: You have to teach.

3. But on second thought, getting to share knowledge about something you love with a captive audience?

That’s kind of exciting…

4. So you spend all summer on your lesson plans and reading list and syllabus.

5. You figure you’re going to come out on the first day like:

6. Instead you’re like:

7. You try to take attendance, but who named these people?

8. Meanwhile, your students are like:

9. Except for that one who says what everybody else is thinking.

10. You finish the first day and cannot possibly imagine doing another.

11. But you must, so you try even harder, which mostly means making a further fool of yourself.

12. Class discussion remains like this:

13. This is most of your students’ attitudes about reading:

14. And this is how they apparently write papers:

15. How is this horrible, humiliating activity possibly worth the pittance they’re paying you?

16. Soon you start to get to know your students, like that one who writes down every single word you say.

17. The one who doesn’t seem even remotely college prepared.

18. The one who volunteers to answer every. single. question.

“Anyone else? Trying to hear from some other folks.”

19. The one who’s amazed by even the simplest concepts.

Which has its charms.

20. And the one who actually seems to like your class.

21. You realize nobody comes to office hours.

Unless they need a drop slip signed or want to argue a grade.

22. Except for the day before a paper is due when every single one of them comes.

23. And you learn — the hard way — that there is no feeling more divine than finishing a big stack of grading.

24. Then one day, you finish up a class knowing that you nailed it.

People were participating, learning, even enjoying themselves!

25. You start to come into class with a different, more positive attitude.

26. You realize some of the concepts you’re teaching are actually sticking.

27. And once in a while class discussion totally knocks your socks off.

28. You become comfortable being silent until somebody participates.

29. And laying down the law when nobody shows up having read.

“Everyone take out a sheet of paper for a pop reading quiz.”

30. You discover how awesome it is when you’ve helped a student exceed his or her own expectations.

31. Not that you’re going to win over all your students.

32. Or that there aren’t days when you’d rather be anywhere but teaching.

33. But on your last day, you’re actually a little sad to see your students go.

34. This teaching stuff? It’s kind of awesome.

Except for grading. Grading is not awesome.

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