April 26, 2005

You're only as rich as you look

Or something.

Came across this post at Asymmetrical Info. this morning, and found it interesting. It reminded me of my favorite line from The Incredibles, when Syndrome reveals his plan to market superhero tech to the masses: "When everyone's a super, no one will be."

I'd been meaning to link to this post about racism and underqualified TA's that I found via Erin O'Connor, but forgot. I think, beyond the obvious examples of mismanagement and administrative fear on display, that the post does an excellent job of pointing out the lack of training most TAs receive.

I had one semester of TA training, which covered everything from prepping a syllabus to grading, and involved two weeks of "classroom observation" in which I watched a TA teach the course I was preparing to teach. That was it. Then I was set loose upon 2 classes of 20 or so freshmen for the remaining semesters of my MA. I had the grammar skills and lit knowledge, but since the Eng 111 course revolved around writing argument; well, let's just say that I understand how the judgement of a 21 year old with a scant 15 weeks of training might not be sufficient to the job.

Welcome to higher education!

Posted by Big Arm Woman at April 26, 2005 10:20 AM

Hey, it wasn't the quantity of prep. time that was important, but the quality, right? For instance, I had that gem of a mentor during my two-weeks observation period: a balding, baby-boomer associate professor who had the required Che Guevara poster displayed in his office (trite, but true). Within that two weeks I had to listen to him tell me why well-know scholar Hershel Parker was "full of sh-t", and witnessed him turn a class discussion on "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" into an excuse to yell "f---ing Republicans".

Hmm (head scratch)... why didn't we pursue our Phd.'s again?

Posted by: Husband of BAW at April 26, 2005 12:42 PM

"I've been rich and I've been poor;
Believe me, honey, rich is better."

--Sophia Kalish A.K.A. Sophie Tucker A.K.A. The Last of the Red Hot Mammas

Posted by: snopercod at April 26, 2005 01:43 PM

Two weeks would have seemed like a lot. I was drafted to teach a section of econ 101 with 75 students. The scheduled grad student did not return from Christmas break. Ten minutes before the class was to begin I was given the book and the following instructions keep you hands off the coeds and have fun.

Posted by: jim at April 27, 2005 02:10 PM

Wow. They gave you training?

I had the option of going to a two-hour presentation about being a TA (I didn't find out about it until afterwards), but had the head TA for the class show me the ropes. Head TA isn't an official position, it's just the person who's been teaching that lab the longest. They make sure that the other TA or two know how things are done, and make up the class syllabus. I do that now.

OTOH, my teaching is in a laboratory. I do some lecturing about principles behind the tests we're running, explain how to run the actual tests, and watch them to make sure they don't put tinfoil in the microwave or something. I also have to grade their reports.

Maybe I'm an exception, but I've actually loved being a TA. The only thing I hate about it is the grading. I've volunteered to do it for the next semester.

Joel Prusi

Posted by: J Prusi at April 27, 2005 06:49 PM

Every time I think of finishing up my bachelor's degree, I come across something like this and a little voice in me says "never mind." Then again, I am starting to get warnings from the student loan people so...

Posted by: Andrea Harris at April 27, 2005 08:31 PM

Went to a university-wide TA orientation for 3 hours one morning. Interesting, but completely useless since it included every new grad student with an internship/fellowship/grant/etc. regardless of whether the person was a "teaching" TA.

Ended up falling into a group that met with an experienced instructor (taught at several different colleges and universities concurrently) once a week and learned more about teaching in that 1 hour every week with him than in any course.

Good thing I had him cuz my first course was walking into an auditorium of 250 students.

Posted by: di at April 27, 2005 09:11 PM

You had a semester of training?? At the University of Colorado in the 1980s, I had one afternoon's worth of instruction to become a part-time instructor in the composition program.

Posted by: Chas S. Clifton at May 3, 2005 04:52 PM

Here's what I had in the early 80s: a really high grade the in course version for graduate students. I was recruited by the prof to TA for the next two quarters that he was teaching it to undergrads. My training consisted in writing the course objectives.

I lectured probably every other week and graded ALL the problem sets & case reports. The case reports were gone over by the prof, but he went with my grades 98% of the time.

Posted by: liz at May 4, 2005 02:58 AM