Day after day, students go to lecture, to discussion and then do their homework. Once they leave discussion they may assume that their teaching assistant does the same thing, but the responsibility of a TA goes far beyond what students see in discussion.
Walls: Day after day, students go to lecture, to discussion and then do their homework. Once they leave discussion they may assume that their teaching assistant does the same thing, but the responsibility of a TA goes far beyond what students see in discussion. Being a teaching assistant can be a rewarding thing, but it can also be stressful. The work a TA does can be demanding, from coming up with lessons for discussion, grading papers and tests and holding office hours for students.
Nana Osei-Opare, a graduate student in history, has been a TA for two years. Opare teaches History 10B: “History of Africa, 1800 to Present” this quarter. Although he is not graduating, this will be his last quarter teaching.
The work a TA does goes beyond what students see in the classroom. Being a TA is a responsibility, and they have to make themselves available for a student while also trying to juggle their own life. Getting emails at 11 p.m. or 1 a.m. goes along with the job, but TAs need to be able to take breaks too.
Opare: You still have to go out and enjoy yourself, so you know on Friday night or Saturday night from 11 p.m. till 2 a.m., that’s still my time.
Walls: Students can bombard their TAs with emails before an assignment is due begging for help, and as a TA, Opare has seen it all. But students need to realize that the work a TA does is not their only work, and at times it may be hard to separate school work from TA work.
Having the interaction with students makes the job worthwhile for Opare.
Opare: It’s not the money for sure, but I do think there are two or three sides to it. When you are in section and say something and the students eyes spark up – I know its cliche, but its true. Also when they come to office hours and you get to know them better.
As an undergrad, Opare, like many students, never gave any thought to what TAs do and the extent of their work.
Opare: I never considered or thought about my TA and what they were doing, I just saw them as an extension to the teacher. It’s only now that I’m a TA that I appreciate what they were doing because now I know how much work goes on in the background.
Walls: Seeing a student grow throughout the quarter can make everything worth it at the end. Opare is a student himself and he knows how hard work can be. Opare teaches general education classes. Sometimes students come into them without much interest, but often leave with a new perspective.
Students may not care what kind of TA they get. Online TA reviews are not the end all, or be all, for students. But when a TA puts in the extra work and really cares, it shows.
Opare: There is no incentive, really, for a grad student to be a good TA besides income, so when they bend over backwards and put in the work, they really do care.
Walls: Sometimes students email their TA to tell them the material was interesting, or students improve their writing skills over the quarter. To Opare, that makes the work worth it. He says it’s about teaching and helping students.
Opare: Undergrads, be nice to your TAs. We do really try and help you guys out. And go to office hours, it can really boost your grade, and good luck.
Walls: TAs put time and effort into helping students achieve their best, but the TA can only do so much.
For Daily Bruin Radio, I’m Sydney Walls.