What My Semester as a Teaching Assistant Taught Me

This semester I had the awesome opportunity to be an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant, or TA, for a course in my major.

This opportunity kind of fell on my lap when my friend and I took a course last year for our major and at the end of the semester the professor announced that he was looking for TA’s, and to reach out to him if you were interested and did relatively well in the class. My friend and I took this class together and decided it might be interesting to try and be Teaching Assistants.

A whole semester later, last Thursday was my last day of class as a TA. I can’t believe how much I was able to take away from the experience and how entertaining it was to find out what goes on behind the scenes of a lecture class.

Courtesy of @theunhelpfulteacher on Instagram

 

Keep on reading to find out some of the secrets:

People have some interesting excuses and explanations for things.

I used to feel like my teacher might think I was lying when I got sick and had to miss class, but compared to some of the explanations students have given this semester, I guess my sickness is pretty easy to believe. Whether or not they were telling the truth, I still don't know (and I won’t go into specifics), but there was an almost comical amount of people who got sick the day of the exam and informed us they couldn’t make it five minutes before it started, people who seemed to be “out of town for family reasons” every other weekend, and even students who signed in then walked out and tried to explain why when they were caught. I tried to give people the benefit of the doubt if I could, but for anyone who's guilty of the excuses above in their own classes, be careful because you’re probably not as discreet as you might think.

Going out and partying had a whole new added stress.

The very first week of classes I had the dreaded encounter of having someone tap on my shoulder while I was dancing with my friends at a club to yell, “Oh my gosh, you’re my TA!” When this happens, I’m not sure if it’s more awkward to pretend you aren’t and then try not to make eye contact with that person in class so they don’t realize, or just reply with “Yeah, that’s me!” and hope that they don’t see you again for the rest of the night. It’s weird because people thought that it was funny and crazy to see their TA out. In reality, I’m the same age as the majority of the people in the class, if not younger, so it’s really not that weird for me to be at The Strip when they are. This gave me a whole new level of stress when I went to any parties or had a night out because I didn’t want to be caught doing anything too embarrassing by students in the class. Luckily, I don’t use Tinder, but I imagine having a profile on there would just be a whole other mess like this.

Teaching a class is so much more intimidating than being lectured to.

I will never forget the first time I got to actually teach the class. I stayed up late creating a lesson plan, and I was so excited because I thought it was going to be awesome. I even put funny gifs in to seem relatable! But once I stood up there to teach the lesson, it was like an episode of a kids’ show where the character asks a question, then stares blankly for a few moments, then just says the answer to the question. Even though I was technically the “teacher” in this situation, I was so intimidated by the class when I had to stand up there and try to engage with them. So I guess now I know how it feels to be one of those professors in gen-ed classes full of students who don’t care to ever raise their hand.

Professors and TA’s are people too.

This is obvious, but it really got put into perspective when I took on this role. There's no need to be nervous to approach your professor or TA about anything. I was so happy when students would come and talk to me or ask questions, whether it was about the class, my involvements or something totally random. Also, it’s crucial to treat people with kindness and respect; it might seem like your professor is dealing with hundreds of students and won’t care about what you say, but it’s easier than to get hung up on a rude comment or email from a student. (Plus, if you didn’t already know, being on your professor and TA’s good side will help you out big time.)

All in all, this was a fun experience that I would recommend to anyone in any major! I’m sad that my time as a TA has come to an end, but I am grateful for the skills this role taught me, the friendships I found in my fellow TA’s, and now I know to actually participate in class and make sure that the doctor notes I hand in to my teachers look legit.