As you begin your new position as a modified supplemental instruction learning assistant you should be aware that you are in the position of supporting a large group of students in a particular class, and that such high expectations and responsibility should not be taken likely. Working as a learning assistant comes with its challenges, especially at first when you become accustomed to your own, most effective teaching style that comes from experience and education. Remember that you have faced many trials academically and succeeded, and that these students are in the same place you were quarters ago. You will have students who go to MSI wanting to be challenged while other students are confused about the basics and it is up to you to make sure both groups feel like they have gained something because of the MSI support.
I believe that you should go into a session with confidence, optimism and energy. Confidence comes from knowledge and experience; so make sure to arrive to your session well prepared to answer and ask any question (of relevant material). Just as you have a role to play, remind the students that you are not the solution manual and that they are expected to go to MSI having at least tried the homework or read the book. Never give out an answer but have the students come to find it themselves. Always ask what they did, where they got confused and to explain their reasoning, because often times it is the concepts that get overlooked which are so critical to the problem solving. Build upon what they know, clarify the key concepts and ideas and ask them questions. I also found that making a goal clear in the beginning of the session was helpful because as the session progressed and the students’ goals were met, their confidence increased; but if the goal was only partially met then they knew what they had to work on. Ultimately you want the students to not only gain better understanding of the material but more independence as learners so that they can use these skills in other classes; such as breaking down the problem, drawing pictures, working with others and looking back at the notes and text as a reference for example.
Do not lose sight of the fact that you are all students. MSI should have a comfortable atmosphere where students are free to talk to you and amongst themselves. It’s good to take a breather from the material before or after the session and make casual conversation, because as they feel more comfortable talking to you they are more likely to ask you for help on the material instead of shy away.
Working for Learning Support Services is incredibly rewarding and one of the best jobs for students on campus. The work you do helps your fellow banana slugs succeed and there is nothing more enjoyable then having someone tell you they finally understand something or get a high five because they did well on an exam or hug you because they passed the class.