I had a really interesting conversation with one of cohort the other day about a few things, primarily our students’ views of us. We got on the topic of assertion versus bitchyness. We could both act the same way, but by virtue of her being a woman, she’d be all the b-word and I’d just be called assertive because I’m a dude. This, made me laugh, cause well, I’ve heard myself be called the b-word, but well a different one. Or I’ve also been called a phallic object of sorts. Either way, I didnt let it bother me because I knew that me not giving out high grades would affect my students’ perception of me. Come on, there’s that whole thing about being sensitive to your students’ needs afterall.
I did change this year. Tremendously, actually, but I think that’s due to my situation. I was a lot more sensitive, and while I kept up the same rigorous grading standards I had before (trust me, I graded difficulty and was generally nitpicky), my students liked me this year. They thought I was fair and tough, and they felt like I actually cared about their progress, which I did. I taught fellow graduate students this year and it was a delight to have them. I got to lecture in a class, and I think the main difference between my transformation from dick to awesome TA was well, humility.
Last year, I taught undergrads. I did the whole “I am your TA, I have a degree you dont” approach, and I could see why I came off as a dick. I still did the same things I did this year, smiling, joking around, trying to be accessible, but since my students were just first year grad students, I didnt have a sense of lording over them and I think my hard grading and actually wanting people to learn were seen as passion for teaching instead of being a jerk.
Now, my students also had my friend’s class. However, more colorful things were said about her. I think the difference though is the way we might have approached the students. I told them I had office hours and to please only come then, as I had other responsibilities as well. I also told them I could be emailed if something was really needed. I also told them I would be available after lectures to discuss issues, and of course, I did what all good lecture TAs do and that’s give review sessions.
She did the same thing, but she was called things like the b-word. Her students were even well, scared of her. I felt bad for her, cause that’s how I know some of my undergrads felt about me last year. She thought it was because she was a woman in a position of power and went on about sexism in our society. She went on how it was okay cause I was a man in a position of power and how that was accepted, and while she was a woman and so she’d always be called a b.
Please, get over yourself. Some of my undergrads hated me and called me worse names. Sometimes a b is just a b. While our teaching styles were similar, our interactions with the students were different. She still went through it as a “I am the TA, you are my student. Respect mah authoritah!”.
Solid, but you’re a hardass, you didnt sing kumbaya with them or hold hands as their TA did you? Heck flipping no. I dont believe in mollycoddling (again, a mistake when it comes to teaching undergrads, they like mollycoddling), and I didnt plan on doing it with the graduate students. I also had the “I am the TA, you are my student. Respect mah authoritah!”. But the difference is I did it with a smile.
I know it sounds wierd, but every interaction with my student was with a smile. Even when inside, I was going “OMGWTFBBQ, why dont you know this?!?!?” in my head, I just smiled and apologized for /MY/ oversight and assumption that they new material. When there were mistakes on exams, I’d announce, “Oh, due to /my/ bad, problem so-and-so should have blah in addition to blah.”
Basically, I was humble. That’s difficult in grad school on some level with one-uppers and your own insecurities plaguing you, but you know what, humility is a good thing. I think I’ll stick with it for a while. Let’s see where it takes me.