If you’re reading this that means you got the position for the job, and for that I say congratulations. I promise you that this experience will give you skills that you can carry on later in life. You will learn more about the subject you’re teaching this quarter, as well as about yourself. You’ll be challenged in ways that you’d never been challenged, and yes, that is a good thing. This job has definitely been one of the best decisions I’ve made in life, and I’m sure it’ll be yours too.
So now I’ll get to what it’s actually like to be a student learning assistant for Chem 1C. First of all, you should know that rather you’ve been teaching for one quarter or for 8 quarters, the first session of each quarter is always one of the most nerve-wracking sessions you’ll ever experience. One starts to think, “Oh my gosh new students! Will they like me? Would they be as awesome as my old students? Will I have a student who questions eeevvverrything?” It’s normal to be a little nervous, just remember to breathe. I remember when I first entered the class as the teacher, I thought to myself, “Wow. This is going to be my classroom for an hour. My classroom. I’m going to be teaching here.” It was so surreal to me. Then when the students came in I knew it was real alright. This was happening; I was going to teach the class. I remember standing in front of the room and all the students staring right at me, hoping to get enlightened of what the professor recently talked about. For the first few moments I just had to remember to breathe. As you’re going through the material you’re more than likely going to mess up. THAT IS OKAY. It’s you’re first day. If you feel that some students may judge you just tell them, “I’m sorry, it’s my first time. Please bear with me.” Another good thing to ease the tension is to not be afraid to crack jokes once in a while. Laugh. Smile. Do the hokey pokey (Don’t really do that). I’m going to be perfectly honest with you though. There are going to be those off/bad days where you feel that you don’t know much. There are going to be those days where you question why you’re even teaching. You might even say, “I don’t even know how I got this job.” But if you stick it out those bad days are going to soon turn out for the good. Believe it or not, almost every learning assistant you’ve seen has went through this, including me. I have to say though, after sticking it out I can honestly say that the good has outweighed the bad.
You will definitely form bonds with your students. In fact my co-worker likes to call them her “kids.” Now I don’t know if you want to go that far or not, but you do kind of get that sort of bond. You start to get to really know your students and are able to recognize how they learn (visual, auditory, or hands on), and will be able to help them in that way. How they feel about the course after you teach them will definitely effect how you feel as well. Nothing feels better to see one of your students come up to you after seeing their test results and say, “I got an A!” Knowing that you helped be a part of that is just really awesome. Another cool thing about teaching students for a quarter is that you’ll still get to be a part of some of their lives after the course ends. I have many old students who come up to me and are like, “Hi Gabbie. How are you?” It’s also good to hear what they’re doing after they took the course you taught.
The main thing I want you to take off this message is that yes, there are definitely going to be those days where you’re just exhausted. You might have times where you might not understand a problem, or a particular student is giving you a hard time, but I promise that you’ll make it through all of that. How can you possibly improve as a learning assistant if you don’t ever make mistakes? I’ll answer that question for you: you can’t. Just remember to smile, and know that whatever difficulty you may encounter, it will get better, and you’re not alone. You’ll start to pick up good teaching strategies; like organization skills and having students work together. By the way, a good way to get the students active in your mandatory session is to write each individual student’s names on the board. Make sure each student gets their own separate space on the board. Each student may work on whatever problem you want them to work on. It could be the same question, with the same numbers or the same question with different numbers (for they won’t cheat). This tactic is good to learn students’ names and to see if each student really understands the material. Remember that every day is a learning experience. I am extremely confident that you’ll be one of the best learning assistants out there, and you’ll have a great time teaching. You got this! Just please, remember to breathe and you’ll be just fine.