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Posts Tagged ‘English’

While the prospect of preparing for 42 class sessions in a semester is daunting, it doesn’t compare to the idea of being thrown in front of a classroom full of college students less than four months after completing your own college degree.  As a new pseudonymous writer at the Chronicle of Higher Education describes:

When I was a graduate student, I participated in academic fraud. I didn’t plagiarize to get an article published or inflate my CV to get a job. I did something worse. I accepted a teaching assistantship as a doctoral student at Elite National University.

By becoming a TA there, I took on a responsibility for which I had no qualifications: teaching first-year composition courses. Even though I had a bachelor’s degree in English, I hadn’t taken an introductory writing course while I was an undergraduate. I’d never taught before or had any course work in education. I didn’t even have a master’s degree. My hometown community college wouldn’t have hired me as an adjunct, but Elite National U. put me in charge of two sections of a required class.

Students attend ENU to be taught by experts, not amateurs. In my defense I can only plead ignorance. Before I set foot on the campus, I didn’t know that teaching assistants actually taught. My undergraduate institution, Flyover College, had no TA’s. The financial-aid offer I received from ENU made no mention of specific duties, so I assumed the phrase “teaching assistant” meant assisting a teacher. Only when I arrived on the campus did I learn that I had to stand alone in front of two sections of grumpy people each semester. I asked around and discovered that other graduate students who had spent their undergraduate years at small liberal-arts colleges were also surprised to be given teaching duties as TA’s.

My sense is that this is more common in English than sociology, but that may make the situation worse.  Despite my love for sociology, if a new graduate student does a poor job of teaching Soc 101 I assume that there are fewer ramifications for the students than those in a poorly taught section of Eng 101.  I suppose that most people don’t feel completely prepared to teach for the first time, but I am glad that I had a few years of grad school behind me before I was given the responsibility of providing college students with useful knowledge.

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