Christina's header
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.

Leave a Reply