By Tarek Kronfli, Summer 2012
When Dr. Miles first asked me if I was interested in being a teaching assistant for one of his yearlong statistics classes, my initial reaction was a mixture of pride and genuine disbelief. Who? Me? Be a T.A.? Seriously? Being a T.A. was not something that had ever crossed my mind. I had always felt I was too busy, too impatient, and too inexperienced to be effective. Moreover, I was not someone that knew how to fail and the prospect of failing my peers was intimidating! So when this teaching opportunity came out of the blue, I was forced to swallow my doubts, take a leap of faith (something one does frequently throughout their graduate career) and I reluctantly accepted Dr. Miles' offer. Two years later, I have been a teaching assistant for statistics and cognitive assessment, and these experiences have proven to be invaluable.
After completing my first year as a teaching assistant, I was shocked by the overwhelmingly positive feedback I received from my peers and professors. Regardless of whether the students loved or hated statistics (and I have found statistics often evokes extreme emotions!), these students left my teaching sessions feeling more at ease and with a better grasp of the concepts and class materials. I was truly touched by the response and realized that I actually had the power to impact the school, and my peers, in a positive, effective manner.
I learned many things about myself as a teaching assistant. First off, I realized I could effectively manage my time so as to incorporate the teaching sessions into my schedule. Second, it turns out that I am a patient man - who knew? Also, even though I had doubts about my abilities and lack of experience, I earned positive feedback for my ability to support students by making them feel more successful in the classroom. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed my experience so much that I am now considering teaching as an adjunct professor after I graduate, in addition to my original professional goals.
My time as a teaching assistant has taught me to be adaptive and flexible to each student's learning style. This, in turn, has carried over into my practicum, providing me with the same type of adaptability with clients in the therapy room. Being a teaching assistant also gave me the opportunity to positively impact my fellow colleagues. Finally, these teaching opportunities have taught me that it is so much more than beefing up your curriculum vitae. As reluctant as I initially was to accept a teaching assistant position, I am grateful to Dr. Miles for providing such an enriching opportunity. I encourage all graduate students to take a leap of faith and seek out similar opportunities to impact their peers and to learn more about themselves as teaching assistants.