Lecturing: The Teaching Assistant Experience

Last year, I started lecturing a course on Personology, which is orientated around the personality and behavioural tendencies. There were a few things that I struggled with when embarking on this new form of employment.

The first was sounding bold and exciting, when trying to stick to the course work. This is a dilemma I have only started to get a handle on this year. I learned last year that no ‘one wants regurgitated information. It’s boring for the students and it’s boring for you, the TA. My advice here is to stray from the textbook and only deliver the main points and then flesh out details by using outside sources and of course personalized examples.

The second is some students are rude. They will leave because they forgot a pen at home, or didn’t bring the slides. You can think of the most trivial opportunity and some students will pounce at it like a kitten after a string of wool. Truly, do not take this personally. These students are in the minority. Surprisingly, a lot of the students take a course because they are interested in it and for those students, as well as the TA, class can become both intellectually stimulating and fun. These students will ask questions in class and try and engage in intellectual debate – often some of the questions are sporadic and seem a bit irrelevant, but this is where the TA can foster a fertile environment for learning, by relating these question to the relevant work.

Thirdly, it’s tiring, much more than it would be for a full time lecturer. I suffer from a slight fear of public speaking. This also contributes to the energy drain of lecturing. The solution to this is to make class a fun environment for both you and the student (Also take calming tablets). Watch videos that speak about the relevant work in a humorous way. Talk to your students, as a peer, rather than take a superior position. It is tempting to be an authority figure; however, it is easier to be yourself and bring your personality – not in a way which is overwhelming – into the lecture. Another tip in this segment is a bit more cumbersome, do research on the coursework. By doing research one alleviates the anxiety of question asking, by students, and one can enjoy the work from a participatory perspective.

Mostly – after I overcame the anxiety of speaking to a class of up to 400 students as an expert – I found the experience extremely rewarding. There were students who came to me after class and asked me for recommended readings on the theorists and found my lectures interesting, not only was this a little bit of an ego boost, it helped to see the (some) students as future academics, rather than the Greek Hydra, of question posing and you, the TA, as a metaphorically deflated muscular figure trying to pose as Hercules. To some this whole rendition up just relax, do your homework and enjoy it.

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