The days working as a teaching assistant

已有 3063 次阅读 2012-12-25 05:21 |系统分类:教学心得| first, course, included, sometimes, assigned

I have worked as a teaching assistant (TA) for four consecutive semesters since I came to this school last year. Overall the experience is joyful and rewarding, sometimes dismaying and discouraging.

The first semester’s teaching was awful. My classmate and I, two fresh PhD students, were assigned to an undergraduate course, The Advanced Programming, teaching them how to program in C. At the first semester in US our job responsibilities included grading their assignments and quizzes weekly and holding the recitations (an exercise classes) in turn biweekly. The instructor was a kind person but gave a lot of assignments, so we had a lot to do considering the size of class with about 50 students. What was worse was the recitations, I having no idea what I should do. It was supposed to be an exercise class we helping them fix the bugs in their program. However, the student might have a different expectation, they expecting us to demonstrate how to solve the problems rather than exploring the way with our assistance. Meanwhile as our limited language capability, it was hard for us to be an effective and efficient TA. At the end of semester, both of us received a very poor course evaluation and the department sent it to us in mail explicitly.

At the very beginning of the second semester, the chair switched me to another course, Computer Architecture. Until to now I still don’t know why he did that.  It might be I was few students getting A in his graduate level class or he might be unsatisfied with my classmate’s and my performance on The Advanced Programming. It turned out to be a very good decision to me. From then on I became the self-dependent only TA. The instructor of the course was a disgruntled American faculty who was forced to teach this course when he was planning to release a new version of his famous open source tool. The imposed teaching duty made him unhappy but he treated me very well. He gave much less assignments to students than my former boss. What was better was I started to enjoy holding the recitations. With the help on my spoken English from International Teaching Assistant Training teachers, I gained a lot of confidence in presenting in front of these native speakers and started to gossip with them in and after class.

I did not receive student evaluation result from the department after the spring semester. But I assumed it was good because unluckily I was assigned as the only TA on The Advanced Programming again in the following summer semester. Generally for summer semester, the department opens limited course so the demand for TAs is low and good ones get their rewards, working in summer, while ordinate ones get their penalties, taking away from their job duties. Initially it seemed so unfair to me because my other classmates got the same pay by doing nothing while I had to prepare class materials, grade assignments and hold recitations along with preparing my qualifying tests on August. Unfortunately, the instructor was an adjunct faculty and he was so lazy that I did almost everything. To be frank, I did not enjoy the work most of time. My complaint mainly arose from the heavy workload comparing to my tight time schedule for the qualifying tests.

After passing my qualifying tests, I declined an offer of working as a research assistant because I had no confidence in the new coming faculty and choosing him as my advisor might be a little risky. And I turned to a faculty and it turns out to be wise choice later. But the bad side was I had to continue work as a TA as I was the last one on his bench. Then I met the best instructor for a TA forever. He graded all the assignments, quizzes and exams. Moreover, he prepared all the materials for my recitation classes. What I needed to do was presenting the answers to the students in classes, my favorite part of TA duties. I enjoyed the teaching and the conversations between us were hilarious. What I did not expect was one day the instructor sent me an Email for he wanted me to be his TA if he would teach the same course next semester. The email really made my day.

In retrospect the days I worked as a TA, the best part was the students I encountered. Most of them were very nice. They were patient and willing to correct my language mistakes. And they were encouraging and said good things about me. When I met them on the hallway, we greeted each other, did fist punch and gossiped together. In certain sense, they were my teacher to help me communicate; interact with people off the campus. During the Christmas season, may your guys a brighter prospect from my bosom heart.

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