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Author Topic: Bang Your Head on Your Desk - the thread of teaching despair!  (Read 2037947 times)
frogfactory
Totally Metal
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Posts: 10,600


« Reply #7425 on: November 09, 2012, 3:26:20 AM »

We have a required 3 credit hour course about teaching in our discipline, but in practice the class is really "how to survive your first semester as a TA / grad student" - there is very little pedgagogy involved but a lot of stuff about how to grade, figure out final grades, manage the classroom, write a syllabus, and that kind of thing.

We had a one credit online "course" (three reflective short essays.  And I mean *short*).  Apart from that, we had a one day workshop that was basically six hours of "do not sleep with your students".  It was not helpful for anyone who had never been in a US classroom.

Although I was initially asked to attend a "can you speak English?" interview, I was excused after sending back an outraged email.
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At the end of the day, sometimes you just have to masturbate in the bathroom.
gotmilk1
New member
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Posts: 7


« Reply #7426 on: November 09, 2012, 8:28:15 AM »

I had to share this one - frustrating me beyond in. My class did an in class activity related to the course topic. They completed a survey (designed by my other class for their class project) and then collected a spit sample in a tube. Their subject ID number was provided. I had a slide telling them to put their subject ID number on the survey. I said it in class. I told them three times not to put their name or student ID number ON ANYTHING because I did not feel it was appropriate for me to know their results - they should write down the subject ID number if they wanted personal results. THREE of 16 surveys came back with student ID numbers - and I have no way of linking them to their tube now, so they will not get results.
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polly_mer
practice makes perfect
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Posts: 37,441

Have you worked on that project today?


« Reply #7427 on: November 09, 2012, 8:44:14 AM »

we had a one day workshop that was basically six hours of "do not sleep with your students".  It was not helpful for anyone who had never been in a US classroom.

My official training as a TA was a two-day workshop in which we spent about an hour on things that might be useful (what to prep for a recitation, how to deal with needy students to preserve our time to do more than TA, what is within our purview and what needs to go up the line) and several hours on things that were hilarious for those of us who were the handful of Americans in a sea of foreign nationals.

I got to answer a lot of whispered questions about why the trainers were harping on stereotypes and how to avoid them, especially since most of the foreign nationals did not know those stereotypes and were indeed incensed (good and bad) that anyone would have such stereotypes.  For example, the Chinese students were incensed that anyone would lump them together with Korean and Japanese students into an Asian group.  My Russian colleague laughed at the idea that Asians are stereotyped as smart, hardworking people.  People who generally fall into the American category of Hispanic were also incensed that they, good X's, were lumped in with those Y's (yeah, those Y's are indeed generally lazy and untrustworthy, but not us X's, so people shouldn't have that stereotype about us, but keep watching those Y's).  The confusion about why anyone would think women in engineering were less capable was interesting to behold, as about half of the engineering TA's were foreign women who had never encountered such a notion.

For the record, sending trainers over who have humanities backgrounds to train the engineering TA's was a huge mistake, even if those trainers are the people who want to do it and have the videos (also for the record, English discussion sections have very little to do with engineering recitation sections; those videos were a waste of time).  The mismatch in backgrounds was horrifying as those trainers emphasized things that were not going to be problems while completely missing things that would be problems like

Although I was initially asked to attend a "can you speak English?" interview, I was excused after sending back an outraged email.

To the best of my knowledge, no one checked that the engineering TA's could speak English.  The TOEFL was considered adequate; it wasn't, according to what I observed, but who cares because engineering graduate school is about research with mandatory TA terms so that the intro classes are covered.

As for the people who ask about my training to teach whatever class, I've made that into a running joke in my physics class because one student early in the semester exasperatedly said something like, "Why should I have to ask questions?  Didn't you go to school to learn to teach physics?  Why didn't you pay attention about how to tell us what's important and what's not?"  Now, I preface many things with "To put <student name>'s mind at ease, the research on how to teach physics is clear that if we <do whatever we're going to do next>, probably more than half of you to pass the test.  If I just lecture on the same topics, probably fewer than half of you will pass the test.  So, anyone who wants to pass the test should pay attention to the instructions and then mindfully do the activity while asking questions as necessary."
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I've joined a bizarre cult called JordanCanonicalForm's Witnesses.  I have to go from door to door asking people things like, "Good evening, sir!  Do you have a moment to chat about Linear Transformations?"
kiana
Distinguished Senior Member
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Posts: 2,399


« Reply #7428 on: November 09, 2012, 9:23:08 AM »

We have a required 3 credit hour course about teaching in our discipline, but in practice the class is really "how to survive your first semester as a TA / grad student" - there is very little pedgagogy involved but a lot of stuff about how to grade, figure out final grades, manage the classroom, write a syllabus, and that kind of thing.

We had a one credit online "course" (three reflective short essays.  And I mean *short*).  Apart from that, we had a one day workshop that was basically six hours of "do not sleep with your students".  It was not helpful for anyone who had never been in a US classroom

You guys got more than we did. We got a 15 minute practicum and half an hour of 'do not sleep with your students.' Other than that, it was 'this is basic math, you can figure it out.'

Of course, the professor I was working for also told the students on the first day of class 'and you're in luck, your TA actually speaks English.'
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If robbers ever broke into my house to search for money, I'd just laugh and search with them.
ellaminnowphd
Curiously Strong
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Posts: 3,823


« Reply #7429 on: November 09, 2012, 9:50:41 AM »

What is this "TA Training" of which you speak? 

For me it was, "Your schedule is T/Th 1-3:30. Here are some previous syllabi you can model.  Have at it, kid." 

Good thing none of my students were attractive to me because I never got the "don't sleep with 'em" talk.  What if there was a hottie that I just couldn't keep my hands off of?  Garsh.  What a relief!
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corny
maizetastic, grained-up
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« Reply #7430 on: November 09, 2012, 9:56:43 AM »

Ah, how fondly I remember getting my first job as a TA. TAs in my department taught discussion sections for the big lectures taught by faculty members (and did all the grading). Having gotten my BA at a SLAC, I had never encountered such a class setup before, but no one bothered to tell us what a discussion section was. I asked a friend who was a few years ahead of me in the program.

I also had one of those massive 1-day TA training things for TAs across the college of Arts & Sciences. That was super not helpful.
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It may just be bourbon in the garden today, and making the best of things.
citrine
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Posts: 1,962

Beware the Annoying Bad Luck Snail


« Reply #7431 on: November 09, 2012, 10:19:04 AM »

I was pretty fortunate: I had a week-long TA mentoring program before classes started conducted by a professor in my discipline, and then attended a weekly "mentor group" meeting of 10 TAs for an entire semester (with credit) with that same professor, who assigned useful readings and led discussion. As I advanced in my graduate studies, I also helped with TA mentoring in specific areas related to my research.
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llanfair
Still reading past her bedtime and Very
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Whither Canada?


« Reply #7432 on: November 09, 2012, 10:46:43 AM »

What is this "TA Training" of which you speak? 

For me it was, "Your schedule is T/Th 1-3:30. Here are some previous syllabi you can model.  Have at it, kid." 

Good thing none of my students were attractive to me because I never got the "don't sleep with 'em" talk.  What if there was a hottie that I just couldn't keep my hands off of?  Garsh.  What a relief!

LMNO, this was my experience, too.  The course's prof was happy to answer my questions, but actual guidance up front was nil.  Good thing I'd been a lab demonstrator (essentially, an undergrad TA) in my Biology days, or I'd've made a hash of the job.
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Stop looking for zebras when the horse is already standing on your foot.
dem_sultan
Senior member
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Posts: 419


« Reply #7433 on: November 09, 2012, 11:09:12 AM »

I lied to get out of the afternoon-long TA training I was supposed to attend.
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elsie
Distinguished Senior Member
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Posts: 3,855


« Reply #7434 on: November 09, 2012, 11:14:38 AM »

I was pretty fortunate: I had a week-long TA mentoring program before classes started conducted by a professor in my discipline, and then attended a weekly "mentor group" meeting of 10 TAs for an entire semester (with credit) with that same professor, who assigned useful readings and led discussion. As I advanced in my graduate studies, I also helped with TA mentoring in specific areas related to my research.

Are you in rhetoric-composition because that was my experience as a TA in my doctoral program as well?
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"People assume that time is a strict progression from cause to effect. But actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff." - the Doctor
ptarmigan
grad student & chief dork dumpling
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Posts: 4,142


« Reply #7435 on: November 09, 2012, 12:34:52 PM »

Oh, in addition to our 3-credit course, we did also have a campus-wide TA training that lasted a couple of days. Some of it was not useful but other parts of it were very useful, at least in shaping my thinking.

The course in our department wasn't very informative about the pedagogy of my field (which is something I still wish I knew anything useful about), but it was useful in terms of how to survive being in the classroom and doing grad school in general.

Non-native English speakers here are definitely tested for speaking/listening fluency before being allowed to lead actual class meetings. The ones who don't pass either work in our tutoring center or do grading.
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He's on my roster, but if I've taught him anything, it isn't math.
citrine
Distinguished Senior Member
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Posts: 1,962

Beware the Annoying Bad Luck Snail


« Reply #7436 on: November 09, 2012, 12:49:49 PM »

I was pretty fortunate: I had a week-long TA mentoring program before classes started conducted by a professor in my discipline, and then attended a weekly "mentor group" meeting of 10 TAs for an entire semester (with credit) with that same professor, who assigned useful readings and led discussion. As I advanced in my graduate studies, I also helped with TA mentoring in specific areas related to my research.

Are you in rhetoric-composition because that was my experience as a TA in my doctoral program as well?

Yep! PM me if you want to know which program I attended.
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marigolds
looks far too young to be a
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i had fun once and it was awful


« Reply #7437 on: November 09, 2012, 4:46:33 PM »

I was pretty fortunate: I had a week-long TA mentoring program before classes started conducted by a professor in my discipline, and then attended a weekly "mentor group" meeting of 10 TAs for an entire semester (with credit) with that same professor, who assigned useful readings and led discussion. As I advanced in my graduate studies, I also helped with TA mentoring in specific areas related to my research.

Are you in rhetoric-composition because that was my experience as a TA in my doctoral program as well?

This, and additionally we had to take a semester-long pedagogy course (3 credits!) on how to teach writing.
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They are our servants.  They are like dogs.  Sometimes, they think they remember being wolves, but they are only dreaming.
mfaeer
Distinguished Senior Member
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Posts: 1,295


« Reply #7438 on: November 09, 2012, 6:17:27 PM »

I was pretty fortunate: I had a week-long TA mentoring program before classes started conducted by a professor in my discipline, and then attended a weekly "mentor group" meeting of 10 TAs for an entire semester (with credit) with that same professor, who assigned useful readings and led discussion. As I advanced in my graduate studies, I also helped with TA mentoring in specific areas related to my research.

This is pretty typical in English, as well as a grad-level course in rhet-comp pedagogy either the previous year or during the first semester of teaching.
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gennimom
Somewhat Southern (Have I really posted that much?)
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Posts: 18,467

Let's get summer over with! Me want snow!


« Reply #7439 on: November 10, 2012, 12:38:12 AM »

I TRIED to get out of our workshop. I think if I'd taught 10 YEARS of secondary school, I know about what to and not to do in a classroom. No such luck.
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...only after reading gm's post, my new mantra is "always listen to gennimom".
Monday reeks! - Garfield
The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a person (or something like that).
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