Thursday, November 30, 2006

collective wisdom

I asked the TAs to tell me what they needed the rest of the semester, and some complied. Others took a broader approach, and gave me some great suggestions for what would have been useful throughout the semester. I am going to try and collect some of that collective wisdom.

Demonstrate my own grading more, and earlier. I don't know why I haven't thought of doing this, or maybe I have and simply haven't been organized enough. I think I will need to make sure that I do a lot of electronic grading next semester, and save a range of papers for each assignment. I actually did this way back in 1998, but haven't done so since. I also think that even if I do this grading electronically, I need to print those documents off. I need to distribute a much more substantial "guide to the program" not just for TAs but for adjuncts, too.

Spend more time on Blackboard and the Multimedia cart. I have mixed feelings about these suggestions, but will try to come up with some better plans. My students last year said "spend less time on BB," so let's hope there is a happy medium out there. The MM cart hasn't really come up as a problem before, so either this year's TAs were more adventerous in their use of the carts, or the carts are breaking down and becoming more and more difficult to work with.

I have also been wondering if I simply should ask students to do more "practice teaching" in TA strategies. The environment, however, is so different. There is nothing quite like teaching to 22 students who may or may not want to be in class, who may or may not want to do your assignments, and who may or may not respect your authority. A bunch of really intangible things seem to be pretty important to teaching: being able to "sell an assignment," something that usually takes a few years of teaching an assignment; simply being able to explain material clearly, which is virtually impossible the first time through; being confident, which seems to either be a personality trait, or something that comes slowly with experience. I have been wondering, "should I just tell new TAs that they are about to experience one of the worst, if not the worst, semester of their lives, but I hope they survive, recover, and grow with the experience." I almost quit my MA and PhD during the first semester of both, and I don't know what anybody could have done to make them better.


Michael Faris said...

I think it's good to be honest. Maybe not "This will be on of the worst semesters of your MA lives" - but definitely "You will probably struggle more this semester with teaching than any other quarter." I think the first time teaching gives you the experience, confidence, and skills that will make you a much better teacher in subsequent quarters. It's not until near the end of the term that you realize how you could have started the term better and done a better job of setting the tone.

Sybil said...

I think you said something similar to me, Kevin. Something like, this will suck, but college is short and life is long. That's always stuck with me.

Plus, I found that my first semester was FUN/Less of a Struggle in comparison to high school teaching, but I wonder how many previous teachers are in that MA program. I was one of very few, I bet.

Btw, I like reading this blog in comparison to others you've kept. I am trying to get Wade to keep a blog still. I even told him to call it a flog: fishing blog. :-)

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