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!

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

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

That’s kind of exciting…

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

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

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6. Instead you’re like:

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

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8. Meanwhile, your students are like:

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

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

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

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12. Class discussion remains like this:

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

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14. And this is how they apparently write papers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which has its charms.

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

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21. You realize nobody comes to office hours.

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

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

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

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

People were participating, learning, even enjoying themselves!

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

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

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

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28. You become comfortable being silent until somebody participates.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Except for grading. Grading is not awesome.

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