What it’s Like to Be a “Teacher’s Assistant”
September 17, 2019
Written by: Julia J Reeder
To be in a class the second time around, but to gain a whole new perspective on the material is one of many things to look forward to when becoming a Teaching Assistant. When I was in my Freshman year here at Purchase, I took a class called Live Literature with Professor McCormick, and the following year found myself as its TA. Having taken another separate course with Professor Domestico, I soon found out that he would be Live Literature’s next instructor, and he kindly asked me to be one of the student’s aids to guide their way through the class. I eagerly accepted, and when the semester rolled around, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. It is a different role to take on depending on the class at hand, but your goal is ultimately to work with the professor to facilitate a healthy and growing learning environment for the students.
For this specific course, I had spent a few weeks prior over the summer collecting material and re-reading some of the works which the students would go through themselves, but the real experience began when I met the class. It was a room full of fresh faces who seemed overwhelmed quickly by many of their first college courses. It reminded me of myself just one year ago, feeling the sense of anxiety over whether I could handle the material. Looking back, I acknowledged how despite any difficult texts or assignments, I did make my way through– and now I had the opportunity to help others do the same. Not only that, but to help ease their worries and guide them through the course in the smoothest way possible. I found that leading students through the material in the ways I found easiest to understand came to me like second nature, as it often does when one is reinventing a way to look at a past subject.
I held meetings with students outside of class, prepared more helpful material with them, laid out how they could go about handling class expectations, time management, etc. It was such a rewarding experience to watch faces go from a stressed, tense student, to a more relaxed and encouraged learner. The most rewarding, of course, was to see them reach the end of the course. Having worked as a team with the professor and fellow TAs of the course, we had given students the tools to find their way through interpreting texts and finding their own voices, achieving great strides in Live Literature. I would absolutely recommend becoming a TA for a favorite class or professor for those looking to not only re-experience the material, but to use that experience to aid the learning of others going through what feelings were once your own.