Sunday, January 31, 2016

First lessons as a TA

I've spent two weeks as a TA, my first ever stint on the other side of the classroom. In that period, I made and graded homework, had my first student come to me for office hours, updated lectures and lab tutorials, and made a couple of announcements too! As you can probably tell, it has been a lot of work and has taken quite a bit of time, in fact more time than I had expected (but then again, I was given fair warning by my adviser). But, most importantly, it has been a lot of fun! At least as a first impression, I quite feel I enjoy teaching, although I haven't really given a lecture yet.

So, a few first lessons. Patience is the #1 trait required for this job, especially if you're a grad student who aced all their classes. Students come in a wide arc, from the super-smart to those who need a lot of help. And then, even the smart ones are not a delight, because they tend to take their smartness for granted and are typically tardy with deadlines (I suppose I was one of them). The smart ones need to respect you before they take you seriously, and that is a real challenge for a TA.

Making homework is another interesting exercise. You don't really realize how deep you've settled into the area until you hear the many different ways in which your question can be interpreted. And that brings you to the challenge - aside from framing questions that can be solved by a reasonably smart student, the question themselves need to be understood just the same way by everyone (similar to writing a paper, really). You need to go through several iterations of possible mistakes and see how the question can help students avoid them. And making a rubric is the hardest part of all, because you are predicting how students will answer a question, and that prediction can easily be way off in most cases.

Next week, I instruct my first lab - AutoCAD Civil 3D. It's a little ironic since I never got any instruction for it myself - I had to master it on my own. Perhaps that experience will help me? Let' see! 

1 comment:

Anmol Gupta said...

I would love to be a TA at some point in my student career. I believe that teaching a class is way more fun than doing research, though it is way too early to make this comment. But, I personally like teaching.