On Being a Teaching Assistant In US

Note: "I had a lot of people asking me about all this Tanya affair. The only and last thing I would say is, please stop caring so much. When you watch some silly and useless video on youtube, like charlie bit my finger and stuff, you don't really care who posted that thing. Do you? You just watch the video, judge it, laugh or think about it and then go back to facebook. That's exactly what you should do with this blog, read it if you think its worth it, and then go back to better things in your life." -Dk

"Ok, could you get out of here now, sonuva...?" - Tanya

Allright, since we are now done with all the Authorial issues, let's begin with the post.

#Dark matter
The first time I checked the lab reports of the students, I was amazed to see the level of truth and honesty embedded in them. Everything was reported as measured with no manipulation done at all. My beliefs had begun to shook as I began to flip by the pages of a particular report.

This report had the most amazing data in it. They had actually reported that the concrete they had tested in the lab last week had negative specific gravity. NEGATIVE specific gravity for chrissake. I was about to comment on the file whether they added cement or anti-matter in it.

But anyway, in the conclusions they supported their data by openly accepting that Sp. G is not supposed to be negative, and that they have possibly done some mistake while weighing their specimens. They hinted that it maybe an instrument error as well. But I commented that it was a human error as they had screwed up in the calculations section.

America isn't that hot about math. I am not too hot about math either. And that's why I love it.

#Extra Credit
I sort of started this cult when the first time I began giving personalized extra credit to certain homeworks and reports. These extra/bonus points would creep into the files which would amaze me, and in the end would put a smile on the faces of the students who really deserved it. Little I had known that this would have larger repercussions.

As the news passed among the undergraduates, the group who got 105/100 became famous and it evoked a sense of thrill among them. If you don't have a thrill while learning or doing anything in this world, you better not do it. My UG courses were without any thrill, so I thought I would make a difference here.

I began giving bonus points to the reports which had nice pictures added along the write ups to caress my eyes. The bad repercussion was that, the next time we had the lab, everybody had their Androids out, and the work area was blinded with flashes. The professor stood wondering why the hell they were clicking everything from sand to rock.

Of course, the good repercussion was that now I only received professionally formatted reports.

#Bigger Picture
I often ran after marks/grades/points in my life (and sometimes I still do that ;), but that's rarely cuz I staunchly believe in excellence, not success) Being on the other side of the table, the bigger picture is more clear to me now. It's not really about those grades. Nobody really gonna care about them after 5 years. Its about how much you can learn out of something. I try my best to make the students learn.

Probably that's why some teachers make assignments/exams so difficult because they desperately want their students to learn. But scaring somebody is never the right way to make them get it. Encouraging someone is the right way.

If you can't excite them, motivate them, thrill them, you can't really teach them. If you can't compare the mixing of mortar to cooking of chocolate cookie doughs, you better find a better way.

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Current Book: "The Grapes of Wrath" By John Steinback
Current Music: "Be Yourself" By Audioslave (Ironic? ;)


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4 comments:

Quizzard said...

It's not just grades. Nobody really cares about anything after a while. So I guess rather than hanging on to that depressing thought, people prefer giving importance to grades.

Tanya said...

Yeah nobody cares much. But the fact remains that knowledge is a powerful tool, now the fields of knowledge may vary from science to art, but knowledge always helps.

Ashish Daga said...

Agree there....esp about the truthfulness/academic honesty is something to be appreciated. The widespread research environment here is a reflection of the same IMO.

Tanya said...

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!

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