Last semester, I had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for INFO 1300, Introduction to Web Design. Since it was my first time being a TA, I wanted to make sure that I got the “whole” experience, so I signed up to be involved in both teaching and grading. Every week, I led a section with another TA, graded projects, and held an office hour. Overall, I enjoyed the experience and wish I would have had the chance to be a TA earlier on during my career at Cornell. Some of my key takeaways from the experience are listed below.
Teaching is fun
Some of my favorite parts of being a TA came while teaching section and during office hours. It was fun helping students learn web design, something that I’m passionate about. It also felt good to help students understand something new that they had never learned before. There is a certain satisfaction that comes with helping other students, especially since I’m a student myself. You want to see your students succeed, and this often takes patience, which brings me to my next takeaway.
If you are not a patient person, teaching something like programming to students who have zero programming experience can be tough. Even though I’m a fairly patient person, it was still easy to get frustrated at times during office hours. However, I understand that new concepts and material aren’t always easy to pick up at first having been in that situation myself. Being a TA helped me become an even more patient person, and made me appreciate the importance of patience while teaching. It’s easy to just give students the answers they’re looking for. However, it’s not always as easy to help students arrive at a solution to their problems without telling them exactly how to do it. I understand the importance of this even more now that I’ve experienced it from a teaching perspective.
Often, the best way to learn something is by teaching it
I’ve heard people say this many times, and I got to experience it firsthand while being a TA. Web design is something that I very much enjoy, however, it’s not something that I practice every day. I’ve taken a few courses in web design, but, being a TA in an intro web design course really helped me strengthen my skills when it comes to the basics in web design.
I’m not a huge fan of grading
Although I very much enjoyed the teaching part of being a TA, I didn’t care as much for grading. It was definitely a valuable experience to be on the grading side of projects, however, assigning grades wasn’t my favorite part of being a TA. That being said, I definitely learned a lot about the grading process from the perspective of both the grader and the student, and I’m happy that I decided to participate in grading throughout the semester. In addition, as I mentioned above about learning, grading was a great way to learn the material even better because I got to see how different students completed the same projects in different ways.
Overall, I’m glad that I had the opportunity to be a TA at least once while at Cornell. I’d love to hear about what you learned from being a TA in the comments below.