To the future MSI Learning Assistant for Computer Science 101:
Prepare for one of the most rewarding jobs any undergraduate student could possibly have on campus. I found my job to be highly fulfilling when I could say after a quarter that I helped students excel in one of the most difficult courses for Computer Science majors. Before you start I’d like to share with you some of my experiences working in this position for a year.
The first thing which really threw me off in this position was how different the class was depending on which professor was teaching it. There’s at least 4 different professors who all teach CMPS101 and they all are very different. It would be highly beneficial to you to immediately know what the professor wants and how he plans on teaching the class. For things such as induction the written format for a proof can be dramatically different. Another issue I ran into with all the different professors was that they all would teach different, sometimes very difficult material. Students will expect you to be an “expert” on this material which often meant I had to look ahead and study the material which was new to me before sections. Nothing is worse than being unable to help a student because you don’t understand a material yourself. On the bright side, I did enjoy getting to learn new material, many of which has become relevant in my later courses.
As you know, Computer Science 101 joins the programming aspects from courses such as CMPS12B and the math aspects from courses such as CMPE 16. This was difficult for myself, and is for most students as well. I found it beneficial to myself to identify which of the two aspects of the
course, programming or math, was a student’s strong point. When aiding a student I would attempt to talk to their strong side. By making the part which they were weaker on (which was usually the Math side) relevant to what they were better with (usually programming). It builds self-confidence and
brings relevance from something they care about.
I have to say the biggest learning experience for me during training was when I realized my real goal for this job. It goes without saying that you don’t just hand out answers to homework, but I used to only make it so that the students would understand the concepts needed for their assignments and midterms. When I realized that our true goal was to enable the students to succeed in their entire future here at UCSC and onward my entire perspective changed. By enabling students to do better, sometimes just by sharing something as simple as a good study habit, I witnessed growth in their academic abilities. The moments when I see a student dramatically improve is what makes this job so rewarding for me.
Not everything will always go perfect during sections, but all I can say is to just move on and learn from the experience. You’re going to get better at your job as you gain more experience. I hope you enjoy your time here as much as I have.