I would like to begin this letter by saying that you are in for a treat. Working with Learning Support Services has been one of the best experiences I have had at my time here at UCSC. I believe the students who get the opportunity to work for LSS have a more fulfilling experience than those that do not, and I hope you enjoy your time as much as I did.
One great aspect of all the training that is provided by LSS is that a lot of the activities, workshops, and discussions are discipline specific, so all the math/statistics tutors are grouped together during trainings. This has always been beneficial to me, because each discipline has its own challenges and nuances for how best to educate students, and so by being able to talk to your fellow math tutors it is a great way to learn strategies and techniques that you can incorporate into your work. One thing I feel has contributed to my success as a Learning Assistant is the fact that I don’t actually like math, and yet work as a math tutor. In discussions with other math tutors you usually hear something along the lines of, “I feel my enthusiasm for math helps me get my students enthusiastic about the subject as well.” But for me, it has always been the opposite. I don’t like math, and that has been my motivation to make math fun for my students, because I know the importance of making math fun for me. Now, I don’t know which camp you fall into, but I feel that whether you like math or not, using your personal relationship with the subject to make the sessions more enjoyable and productive for the students is key.
This may sound corny, but working with LSS really has shaped who I am as a person. The most noticeable for me is public speaking. Before working for LSS the idea of public speaking absolutely terrified me. But facilitating an MSI session, when you have fifteen students relying on you when they are most vulnerable (i.e. asking for help), it forces you to move out of your comfort zone whether you want to or not. When you have people depending on you it helps you grow as a person. Now, after seven quarters of working with LSS, I am comfortable with public speaking and working with people. My experience with LSS helped me with other jobs as well, including the UCSC Summer Orientation. I had a blast giving campus tours and speaking with people from all backgrounds, and I believe I would not have been able to do it without the time working with and the support from LSS.
You will face a lot of challenges working as a Learning Assistant. There will be days when your MSI session doesn’t go exactly as you have planned, or what you anticipated would be the mood and response of your students will end up being wrong. Hopefully those days are far between and you can reflect on what went wrong and make your future sessions better. It is easy to see your students as a homogenous group instead of a collection of diverse individuals all with different needs. Some will respond more positively to your teaching strategies than others. The key is to not take a frustrated student personally, but to take that as an opportunity to help the student in need. Being a Learning Assistant is a constant learning process, one that challenges you for the better. I wish you all the best in your future work, and I hope you enjoy being the Learning Assistant for AMS7 as much as I did.