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How do you balance your teaching assignment with your other responsibilities? Do the more experienced instructors among us have words of wisdom or cautionary misadventures to share? Are there any resources you'd care to recommend?
2eccentrica Primeira Mensagem
I've only got one previous year of teaching experience (2004-5) and I suppose I do have a few cautionary words. Although I really enjoyed the teaching, I found it very difficult to balance it with writing my PhD. The preparation took a long time, and more importantly, I found myself thinking about the seminars a lot, rather than my own work. I got plenty of reading done, and other aspects of research that don't require quite the same level of mental concentration, but I found that I didn't get any significant writing done during the teaching year. My supervisor was not happy.
I took a year off teaching (2005-6) and managed to write the majority of my thesis, so I'm going to teach again this year. I suppose my advice would be, try not to let the teaching take over, don't let your students take advantage of you, and make sure you make enough time for your own writing (and thinking).
When I was an undergrad, recitations were all about getting the TA to give us the answers to the problem sets. I don't want to fall into that trap, but like eccentrica warns, I'm worried that preparing other activities will take too much time and attention away from my other responsibilities.
Talking to other, more advanced, students in my department, their attitude seems to be "Teaching sucks, put as little time and effort into it as possible." I am really nervous about teaching, honestly, and I appreciate tips from the more experienced!
I realize where this attitude comes from, but I think this is very unfair to the students your colleagues are teaching. If research is taking up too much time, and the grad student doesn't feel she/he can devote a decent amount of time to the students, she has no business teaching. Period. The students taking that course are paying increasingly high tuition rates, and they deserve some effort from their instructor. Obviously you don't want the kids taking advantage of you or absorbing your time, but there are ways to balance it to be fair to both them and your research.
One of the easiest ways to do this is designate "student" time and "research" time. Only see students during office hours and allot 1 hour every evening to respond to student emails/phone calls. If you can, try to arrange it so that their assignment deadlines do not conflict with yours.
What I'm trying to say is by all means help the students out, but set boundaries and stick to them.
Another thought, from my own perspective. I plan to be teaching more or less regularly as a part of my academic career. Therefore, I regard opportunities to teach not so much as intrusions on my dissertation work (although they clearly are) but more as valuable time to hone my skills, improve my schtick, and add to my c.v.
Because I'm kind of young, we have a really casual classroom atmosphere, which is good and bad. Bad because I think it means the students don't take the courses quite as seriously as they could and/or complain a ton, but good because there aren't very many boundaries, and people generally feel comfortable speaking out.
I probably could prep a hell of a lot more than I do. I don't generally prepare lectures; I'm incredibly nervous about the future prospect of teaching a more lecture-based and/or large class!
jwd, I didn’t care much for those recitations either. *crickets chirping* "I, uh, need some help with question 39?" *more crickets…a tumbleweed rolls by…a wolf howls in the night*
It sounds like your department is not giving you as much support as you would like. I have the impression that you’re looking for some really concrete advice - I apologize in advance if I am being presumptuous or condenscending. Does your institution have any sort of new TA training? If yours is anything like mine was, it will mostly offer: (1) many reminders not to be a perv, and (2) buzzword-filled, abstract statements along the lines of, “Student motivation and performance are enhanced by feelings of mastery and control.”
Item (2) is actually a good recommendation – it’s a sneaky way of suggesting that you let your students do most of the work for you. Break your recitation into smaller groups, and assign each group a key topic from that week’s lectures. For the next recitation, each group is responsible for a very brief oral summary and a one-page written study guide to be distributed to the class. (Make sure your lecture professor is prepared to back you up if one of your students should complain about all of the unfair extra work.)
You’ll be able to quickly correct your student’s misperceptions and identify gaps in their understanding, and they’ll be motivated to show up prepared so they don’t look like dolts in front of their peers. Let them know you will call on them at random, and redirect their questions to one another.
If you make brief how-to-solve-it handouts for quantitative problems, you will be like a god to them. Clearly reasoning through example problems is almost always helpful, but make it very plain that you will answer specific questions related to the problem sets only at office hours.
In my experience, students totally love (1) getting their graded work back promptly (2) review sheets and (3) when you swear. Everything else is gravy.
Best of luck to you - let us know how it goes!
Faced with the decision of whether to work on a chapter rewrite or a worksheet for class, I've often been tempted to start with the class prep--after all, both need to be done, so why not start with the easy stuff, the stuff that will have an audience of 20 instead of one or two (perhaps highly critical) people? Sometimes I've found myself only getting the class prep done, however,...
So jwd879's department's (fairly common, I suspect) attitude toward's grad student teaching is understandable in these terms. We're told that our first job is our diss and our second is teaching and that we should excel in both. But research first.
More practically, I am a fan of McKeachie's Teaching Tips.
I'm curious to know from folks what texts they are teaching or have taught?
It does take a lot of time - especially when you read and comment on multiple drafts. However, I've resigned myself to the fact that I will be working my butt off for the next two years (disseration writing) and following that if I am blessed with a tenure-track job. I expect to work at least 60 hours a week - probably more, though.
I'm glad I knew what I was getting into, though. I've seen way too many people go to grad school not knowing what they were in for. It isn't pretty. And I know way to many people on anti-anxiety medications. Grad school can be a stress pit. I've had a few fantasies lately about "Snakes in the English Department" ;-)
Oh what fun it is to pay a ridiculous large amount of money to work an 8-6 job without getting paid!! The beauty of teaching...... oh, the sarcasm. :P It'll be interesting, that's for sure. Is it the same for all of you? Or is your tuition covered because you teach a class?
Thankfully, those who go into teaching little kiddies don't go into for the money (mainly because it's just not there!) or it'd be a hard chunk of reality to swallow. ;)
Best of luck to all you teachers of the college-aged this semester!
This semester I am using The Craft of Research and quite a few essays. I've listed some of them in my most recent blog post (http://harmoniasnecklace.blogspot.com/). If you want to contact me, either leave a message on my blog or send a message to my profile page and I will give you my email address in a "private" comment. I'd post it here, but I fear the spambots!
Actually, in Georgia, a new B.A. or B.S. in education at the middle or high school level starts at almost $20,000 MORE than a college instructor with an M.A. or M.S. and $15,000 more than a new college asst.professor with a PhD. Tech school instructors also get paid more starting than college instructors and asst. profs. However, in the long run, the college professor catch up and pass the K-12 and Tech folks.
State salaries are PUBLIC info - you can look them up.