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Thursday
10/26/17

Being a Teaching Assistant

Posted by caaponte on October 26, 2017 in Fall Semester, Future of the United States, Senior Year, University Life

During my freshman year, if you asked me if I would ever be a TA – my response would be:

Absolutely not

Why? Well because, why would I add additional responsibilities to my own responsibilities that I am working to balance.

Fast forward to my senior year – choosing to be a TA is single-handedly one of – if not the best – decision I have made to date. Why? Because it is not an added responsibility. It is a humble reminder of how far we have all come in our undergraduate careers and how much more room we have to grow. I am supposed to be teaching them, but I never realized that they would also be teaching me. They each arrived to UB with a history of trauma, disappointment, some form of loss, and often with the idea that AP Biology would make the transition easy. Their stories have inspired me to continue moving forward even when I feel as though I have too much on my plate. In fact, hearing them confident enough to share my story makes me feel as though a support group during your fall semester of freshmen year is absolutely crucial.

I lead my own lab but I assist in another with one of my best friends. We try to create a judge-free environment because we remember how intimidating it was sitting amongst 28 others in Evolutionary Biology. Students don’t yet realize that they don’t need to ask permission to use the restroom and refrain from participating in lab because they aren’t yet confident in their answers.

As their TA, I hope to assist them in the transition to university life. I’ve lived it. I understand it. Every semester has had its ups and downs and I’m not afraid to share that with my students. I share with them how I tackled more difficult topics. I hope that my stories have inspired them to reach their potentials and to want more from their education.

The undergraduate degree is more than just academic growth. Toward the end of the semester, I will ask them to reflect on their undergraduate experience and hope to find that the highs and lows have only promoted personal growth.

In the meantime, I continue to revamp the way I run my lab. There is no perfect way to monitor or teach a group of 28 students from all different backgrounds, but I will continue trying my best. I hope others can follow my lead and choose to TA a class. I hope that they get as much out of the experience as I have and see the value in instructing the next generation of STEM students. It helps you visualize that this field is much larger than just you. When you plan to meet with a student, the exam you have the next day can wait until after you help the freshman sitting before you transition to university life.

Tuesday
10/10/17

AmeriCorps Here She Comes

Posted by caaponte on October 10, 2017 in Reflection, Senior Year

Amidst the semester, it is so important to have a support group. While you’re finding your own path, it’s a beautiful thing to have someone working alongside you while they find theirs.

That being said – today my best friend is leaving for a year to work with AmeriCorps. She is older than I am and is ready to take the next step in helping others the best way she can. Her work to assist in emergency relief will bring smiles to many and her charisma will certainly lift a burden off of those who need it the most. To recognize how blessed you are and how much you have to give – is one of the most admirable qualities a person can have. And I call her my best friend.

Selfishly, I would love to have her here with me in Buffalo. But I know that I should look at the big picture. What is the big picture? People are placed strategically in our lives – at least that is what I believe – and she was here when I needed her and now its time for her to be there for others that need her.

Take a long, hard look at your friend circle. You pick out a social worker named Emily, a future Physical Trainer named Mardi, a future engineer named Zack, a future doctor named Shawn, and a future dentist in yourself. At some point we will all take a turn that we feel is best for our personal and professional development. It is the most bittersweet thing I’ve ever known. Our time here at UB has a time limit but the memories we have made here do not have to.

Moral of the story – Good luck Emily! Buffalo will miss you so much. We cannot wait to hear about the difference you have made.