Hey there Fact Finders:

Today I want to give you a bit of an insider’s perspective to what it’s like to be a TA (or teaching assistant) for a university level course.

Every teaching experience and course is unique, and this quarter will be the first time I am teaching all with other grad students that I know from my lab/department, AND this is the first time I will be a TA for my advisor’s course.

The course is a fairly intense upper-division lab course, so most of the students are seniors. Every week, the students have a 5-hour lab in which they get to study the anatomy of various vertebrate organisms, from lampreys to cats. Because there is just a boat-load of anatomy they have to memorize, and they can’t take the specimens home to study, the 5-hour long labs are pretty necessary.

On Mondays, myself and the other 3 TAs get together and set-up the labs for the week. Despite us being there to set-up we still have fun, especially since we all know one another, so we play music and chat about weird bones and what content is important to emphasize that week.

One thing we try to emphasize is that we don’t have everything memorized. As TAs we are resources and there to direct learning and answer questions, but we don’t have every part of every bone memorized, so we do have to consult the textbook or the internet sometimes. And that’s perfectly alright.

I do truly enjoy teaching and find it to be rewarding, but a lot of teaching is also learning. More important than knowing the answer to every question is the ability to direct students to think critically, develop good study habits, and if you can make the topic interesting/engaging, then that’s truly the most anyone can ask.