The First Day of the Rest of My Life

Friday, January 21, 2005

Alright, one more "serious" post before bedtime.

Kris talks about her experiences of "Being a Chick and Being a TA." In talking about her reviews from students, she mentions this:

...I asked a colleague of mine about it. And he has a theory (at which I'm sure all of you will laugh, though it will probably ring a chord of truth). Female TAs are somehow expected to act like Laura Bush, he said, holding hands and being extra supportive of their grammatical mistakes, their poor writing skills, etc.

I did laugh. Then, I thought back to the Spring of 2002.

My last semester in residence at UT. 21 hours being undertaken, in an attempt to get out of school by May. Two TA's I had during that semester illustrated the Bush/bitch dichotomy. First, the Bush.

American Studies 356, Main Currents in American Culture since 1865. The follow-up to AMS 355. (Makes sense, doesn't it?) Both were large survey courses, with mulitple TA's. 355 was not fun for me. I barely did the reading, barely studied, and barely passed the class. The first day of 356, I got the syllabus, and cringed when I saw that the same woman that gave me my bad exam grades the previous fall would be my same TA. I continued in the first class with the same momentum (or lack thereof) up until the first exam, when I saw a note from my TA in my returned blue book, asking me to meet with her to talk about improving my performance. "Great," I thought, "a tongue-lashing from the almighty TA. Just what I need." But it wasn't anything like that. We set up meeting times, I agreed to go to discussion sections, and my performance in the class did a complete 180. Now, I would like to think that I wasn't "gifted" a good grade because of her being nice. I did the legwork, damnit, she just showed me the way. (Looking back, I would dare say that I don't think I'd have graduated if it weren't for her help.) She even let me use her as a reference for an FBI gig I applied for a couple of years ago.

Now, onto the bitch. Same semester, Religious Studies 325: Life and Times of the Prophet. Things started out innocently enough: she took roll every day, sat in the back of the room, nothing too big. I believe the wheels started coming off when she became a sign-in Nazi. Add in some cracks from the back of the room from her regarding students' questions, and you have the reaction that I gathered on the last class day. I was asked by the prof to gather the forms for the TA feedback. Almost all the students delighted in heaping epithets on her; I even read where one guy called her the "Ariel Sharon of TA's." I'm not THAT well versed on Middle East politics, but even I know that's probably not a compliment.

The point of all this? Again, I'll leave that for you to decide.

2 Comments:

  • hey there..was just browsing thru random blogs. Pretty interesting stuff, you write here. anywayz, drop me a line if anything at all, at stephanie_marilyn@hotmail.com

    By Blogger Stephanie Marilyn Martin, at 1:03 AM  

  • Just to add to this-- it's hard to imagine what it's like to be a TA with discussion sections, particularly in lower-level courses where students are taking the class because they need the requirement. Not to say the "Nazi TA" wasn't necessarily awful, because I wasn't there, but sometimes frustration over the level of apathy and bad attitudes TAs get in turn for the (hours) of preparation for class can be overwhelmingly awful.

    And to defend myself, I wouldn't categorize myself as Bush, or as a Bitch. TAs aren't there to hold your hand. And when you make the effort (as you apparently did the second time around) then we're more than happy to help. But when you have students coming in ONLY when they are unhappy with grades, not actually asking for help or coming in between lectures to ask questions or whatever, I (and most other TAs I know) are not going to treat you with kid-gloves.

    I do ask a lot from my students, but usually they gain some knowledge and confidence in return for putting up with my demands. (So not actually a bitch, right?) ;)

    By Blogger Kristiface, at 4:13 PM  

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