This summer as a part of my research program I am TAing (teaching assistant) for the introduction to clinical research methods course. I was excited to have the opportunity to try my hand at TAing. As a student I had relied heavily on my TAs for help, paper grading, and general questions about the course.
Now, after dipping my toes in the sport of TAing, I have an even greater appreciation for their help and dedication to students. I had no idea the time commitment that assisting in a course is. You generally have to know the material cold, in order to answer questions on the spot in office hours and recitations/small groups. I also learned that answer keys don’t necessarily help you accomplish this – it takes a while to understand why the answer is what it is… but generally students don’t ask you for the answer, but ask you “why”. Interestingly, I had taken this course last summer, but I found myself having to rewatch all of the lectures and look through all my old assignments, because the details of the more general concepts I learned were escaping me.
TA’ing has also made me appreciate the work it takes to grade and turn around assignments and exams for students in a timely manner. Oh man. It takes hours to grade long answer and math problems for partial credit. It’s also ridiculously difficult to do this as objectively as possible. I can see the benefit of multiple choice – but even then, grading this long hand is a time investment.
It has been a major time commitment, and a wonderful learning experience. As I near the end of the summer filled with teaching and PhD milestones, I want to reach out and say thank you to all of the teachers, teaching assistants, professors, and others who have invested time in my ongoing, and seemingly never ending, education. You are all amazing. I often overlooked how many nights that bag of assignments came home with you in the evening for grading papers, and I now have a great appreciation for what you do for your learning community!