My name is Greg Tupper-Eoff and I acted as a Learning Assistant for Biology 135, Functional Anatomy.
There were many personal qualities and academic strengths that helped me prior to be a Learning Assistant, and one of my words of advice is to use every weapon in your academic arsenal. Since I worked in a physical therapy office prior to be a Learning Assistant I was able to use a lot of the body mechanics that I had practiced in my work experience to teach body motions kinesthetically. I’m sure that you have some reason and or specific experience and I suggest you use it. Additionally, I was an RA at Crown College and so I knew many different communication techniques that were helpful for getting group collaboration; the bottom line is we all have skills that are unique to us and so finding a way to integrate those in some way is something I highly encourage.
I know I was extremely scared for my first session and one of the best parts about working as a tutor, is that as they’re learning from you, you also have an interesting opportunity to learn how to be a better instructor. One of my greatest struggles and subsequent rewards was figuring out how to present the material in a way that actually was instructive as opposed to me just trying to copy a lecture. I gave something a try, realizing that it was probably equal chances of being successful as a total flop, and in the end the students really liked it. One of the most important things to actively work on, is determining how best to serve your students, regardless of the class you’re in charge of. If the class is based on solving homework like problems (typical in math classes and chemistry) then allowing them to practice what they’ve seen in class would probably be really useful. In contrast, a class that focuses on memorizing facts (like in many biology classes) would probably be better served by finding a way for them to go over the material in a way they haven’t seen before, where they’re given a chance to try and recall what they’ve heard in lecture.
One of the biggest challenges came in the fact that when I was acting as a Learning Assistant, the people who came were all at varying comfort levels with the material; some had studied extensively and were coming to the MSI sessions to fill in the last of the gaps, while others were essentially using the MSI sessions as a second lecture. Finding a lesson plan that was flexible became extremely important because I had to find a way to teach both ends of the spectrum, and potentially both at the same time. Along that same line was finding different ways to present the material. For me, I learn primarily kinesthetically followed by visual, and lastly auditory (hence why I hate lectures so much). For that reason I tried to find other ways to show the material that way other people like me can get something out of the lesson as opposed to just having a regurgitation of the lecture. Teaching body motions by actually letting people do them I thought was a much more effective way to teach them than just reading to them what “protraction versus retraction” was. I think to that end the most important goal for anyone is to learn how to be flexible and adapt your lessons to best serve the needs of your students.
I wish you all the best in your time as an LSS employee and know that regardless of your background you’ll do great.