It was great while it lasted…
My second and final semester of being a TA is coming to a close. It seemed not that long ago that I was attending my first class and meeting a classroom full of new and aspiring college students. While being a TA has helped me grow as a person and enhanced several of my skills, it was ultimately my students who I was keen on making sure that they made the most of having a TA and succeeding in the class overall. Looking back at the past two semesters, there is nothing I wish I could have experienced more during my time at college than being apart of this program.
Being a TA was not short of its challenges, however. While the program was not very demanding at times, there would be short periods that a great amount of time and work would have to be put in to helping students outside of class, preparing to teach class, and anything else that might have needed to be done. Of these few things that seemed to require a bit of time, preparing for a teaching class proved to be the most challenging of them. This was something I had never done before until starting in the program; and even then, just by becoming a TA doesn’t qualify or prepare someone to teach a class full of new college students who expect that the money they pay will be put to the best possible use and to the best teachers. Fortunately, I had a great faculty mentor to model after. This was the teacher who I assisted throughout the year, and the way she taught and conducted class proved to be a great way for me to mold my own teaching techniques around.
The first few times I ran class lecture proved to be much more difficult than I had originally suspected. While I had spent a few hours preparing for the 40 or so minutes that I would be teaching, it ultimately came down to the reaction and attitudes of the students during the lecture. Upon delivering my first ever lecture, I stood up in front of classroom of students who stared at me, puzzled and confused. They knew I was their TA but I guess they never expected me to teach class to them. It took the better part of the class period for the students to finally accept the idea that someone other than their professor was teaching the material to them. I did not blame them however, because since the first day they began their careers as students, they have always had a certified and professional teacher running class, and that’s what they were used to. This change up so far along their educational careers might have proved somewhat shocking to some of them. Fortunately, this became less of a problem the more I taught class, which did allow me to become somewhat more comfortable during this whole process.
As the year went on, I found myself teaching class more, not only due to the push by my faculty mentor to do so, but also by the desire I had to better myself in this particular aspect. The first few times I ran lecture I always felt that I could have done better, so I was constantly looking to improve on the way I taught the students. As we began to narrow in on the end of the second semester, I believe that my class lectures had greatly improved. Not only did I feel more comfortable in front of the students, but also I felt that they were more comfortable in front of me. They more readily participated and shared their own thoughts and opinions on questions that I would raise. At one point during one of my lectures, all of the students simultan-eously whipped out their notebooks and laptops and being taking notes on what I was lecturing without being told to do so. Seeing this brought so much joy and excitement. I felt like I was finally doing it right. From then on I loved teaching class, and it came to the point where it no longer felt like teaching class but rather sharing ideas collaboratively with the students. By the end of the year, by biggest weakness in being a UTA became a personal forte.
Outside of teaching class, I spent quite a bit of time communicating with students and meeting with them outside of class to provide help on assignments. I loved being able to help students who came to see me frustrated and confused only to leave more confident and being on the right track to successfully completely the assignment. I wanted to be that difference that helped my students get a B instead of a C, or an A instead of a B.
I hope that I had a positive effect on all of my students because I know they all had a positive effect on me. Going through this program and doing things that I never imagined I would be doing changed me for the better. As far as I can say my organizational skills improved, as I had to learn to manage my own schedule and tasks along with helping my students with their own tasks and assignments. My leadership and communication skills drastically improved. Over the course of the year being a TA I was better able to convey what I though inside or outside of class, get my point of view across much more effectively and easily, and make decisions that affected others much more confidently. I have definitely grown as a person throughout this past year and I owe it all to this outstanding program, my amazing faculty mentor, and my fantastic (if sometimes quite) class. I would not have traded this experience for the world and I look forward to seeing how the skills and traits I acquired from being a TA can be applied to other aspects, and challenges, of my life from here on out.