Take advantage of being a teaching assistant

Emma Vrana, Columnist

With a lot of majors, it’s hard to know what a job in the field is going to look like. Shadowing professionals and hearing guest lecturers speaking on their experiences can help predict what college doesn’t teach, but most students are left to experience things on their own.

For example, grading and creating assignments on Canvas is something teachers do every day, but not all students get to do the same in college. However, undergraduate and graduate students can become teaching assistants, a typically paid position to help out professors with grading, communication, hosting labs and the overall logistics of class. 

Throughout either the undergraduate or graduate process, education students should try out being a teaching assistant to gain experience and learn by doing, not just watching. 

Education majors get to shadow schools, observe how the teaching process works, set up lessons and teach a class. But practicing how to explain material as a teaching assistant rather than just observing is much more beneficial to the learning process. Practical experience like using education based technology such as Canvas is something you can’t get while observing. 

Education junior Katherine Voitle talked about the benefits of the program and her experience differentiating learning as a student versus learning as a teaching assistant. 

“When you learn as a student, you’re learning for a test and upcoming tests, and that’s a different way of learning than when you learn how to explain (class materials),” Voitle said. “I grade papers, help students out a lot in emails and I set up quiz times.”

Learning how to explain things early with practice as a teaching assistant will give students the ability to build their teaching knowledge as they progress with their degree.

A benefit of taking this opportunity is bouncing ideas off of fellow teaching assistants, professors and others in the program.

“Having two TAs in each class definitely helps because you get to share different perspectives on things and hear what they think which can be a big difference. … Sometimes my ideas aren’t great, but you know, my (co-teaching assistant) will have a great idea,” Voitle said.

Education sophomore Abby Johnson said even though she has shadowed a school already, she is still having troubles.  

“I don’t think I’ll be prepared to teach by the time I graduate,” Johnson said. “Especially with all the technology that is going into schools now, I have no idea how Canvas works or the teacher’s point of view. … I want to know how that works, and so I think it would be beneficial if I was a TA to learn that stuff.”

A lot of the benefits of being a teaching assistant come from learning about the logistics behind teaching. It’s important to try something out before committing to a career in it. Education students should take up this opportunity that a lot of other majors don’t have and learn the logistics of running a class, especially in this new age of technology. 

Vrana is a journalism sophomore from Austin, Texas.