|added Tue April 06 2004 at 4:47 PM
|"I have been very dissatisfied with Jo-Pete, he was unable to satisfatory [sic] answer my questions, though he obviuosly understood the problem."
I haven't yet decided which is more frustrating: having a TA that doesn't understand/can't explain a problem, or working with a student that for whatever reason either refuses to or simply cannot understand a concept, particularly when it's a concept that I've used so much over the last several years that it's second nature to me.
This actually doesn't happen very often. The best that I can figure, it must have been one of the few students that I struggle with that made this particular comment. I remember one particular occasion where I was trying to explain a concept, and the student refused to listen to my full explanation. Despite my repeated attempts to relate the concept to the basics that he already understood, he continued to fight against me, saying I was wasting his time. He left in somewhat of a huff, obviously not pleased with the whole situation.
I've news for him... I was not pleased either. I honestly did feel that I could help him if he gave me a chance. This is in contrast to some occasions where I feel inadequate or that I need to brush up on the topic at hand. This time I knew exactly where I was going with it, and perhaps would have changed the direction of attack if I reached the end of the explanation without acheiving my final goal of him completely understanding.
|added Tue April 06 2004 at 4:48 PM
|"I only had a problem with Jo-Pete. He made me feel like an idiot if I did not understand. He made it hard to go get help from the lab. I am sure others felt the same way and I would not recommend that he be back next semester as a TA."
This is the one that hurt the most. Besides the overall scores, this is the one thing that bugs me the most. I suppose I should probably let it be and assume that it was just one student's opinions, but I do have to wonder if it was an isolated event. As I sit here thinking, there is only one person that I can think of that no matter how much we struggle together, we can't seem to connect.
Part of the reason why I can't seem to make t through to this individual probably stems from a general communication problem. English is not his first language, and so in addition to struggling to find the right method to explain, I have to find the right words that I'm sure he will understand.
That said, I never intend for anybody to feel like an idiot. I do joke with some of the guys that I feel are my friends. Specifically, I give Isaac a hard time a lot because he spends a lot of time getting help and he always has a question for me. We joke back and forth, but it's over-exaggerated and all in good fun. I would never even imply that somebody is stupid, not intelligent, or whatever word you want to use. Even in the math lab where I would run into people who were struggling with basic arithmetic, I always made an effort to be patient and explain it however was necessary.
Apparently my perception is not *always* accurate. I would like to believe that it's a very small but vocal minority (only two or three as opposed to a percentage).
|added Tue April 06 2004 at 6:13 PM
|"When TA's will write partial solutions on the blackboards, they are the sloppiest solutions I've ever seen. I think writing the partial solutions are good to help students get started (not necessarily complete solutions), but if I can't understand what they write, they have certainly failed in almost every instance in setting an example for neat and professional level work. I think the TA's should be held to the same expectation the students are. If they do blackboard work, it needs to be NEAT!"
I'm not very good at writing on chalkboards. If you've seen my handwriting on paper, imagine it twice as bad and in big letters. Honestly, I couldn't make it look *good* if I tried. So I don't. In fact, I generally don't even use the chalkboard, for a couple reasons, the main one being how annoying it is to have students copy the board without thinking about what they're writing.
Occasionally, if there is a large group of people wanting help with the same problem, I'll turn to the board as a way to show everybody the technique at the same time. I don't do the problem for them, though. I expect them to give me the next step along the way, and then tell them if they're doing it right. I also don't give answers when I'm working on an individual basis. If they want answers, they can look in the back of the book. I work with them until I'm sure that they understand the concepts, or I tell them what mistakes they make and what they're doing right.
Perhaps that's a contributing factor for the low score on explanations... I don't just tell them to do this, this, this, this, and this. I try to help them explore the problem and understand the intricacies of what they're doing on each step along the way. Either I'm not succeeding at helping them see, or they apparently really just don't care about anything other than the answers.
On the next homework assignment, I fully plan to go into my shift and immediately erase the board and ask if there are any questions. Yes, I know that I personally would be annoyed with a TA that did that, but I'm sick of people thoughtlessly copying the solutions.
|added Tue April 06 2004 at 6:31 PM
|The previous three entries are my reply to specific student's complaints that I received from the student evaluations of the TA's. Today I saw the results of those, and talked with Dr. C (my boss) about them. Unfortunately, it appears that maybe I'm not helping the students as much as I thought I was. I got the lowest scores of all the TA's on "Explanations," "Solution Tech," "Attitude and Courtesy," and "Overall," and one of the highest on "Knowledge." Apparently I'm perceived as the kid that knows it all, but is a snob and a jerk about it. Junior High all over again.
Now, there are a few defenses for a slightly lower score. First of all, most of the students I come in contact with are students who come in to do the homework at the last possible moment. They generally don't care about how to do the problems as much as just getting it done. I can't complain too much about them, because I know that I tend to be the same way quite often, but it is still annoying, especially since I see my job as being more than just writing Dr. C's answer key on the board.
Second, as I already said, I don't just hand out the answers. If somebody asks me a question about a concept, I often will try to backtrack a bit and show them how the current problem can be solved by building on previous concepts. This will quite often take longer than simply writing out the solution for them, which I guess they don't appreciate.
To be perfectly honest, I was surprised at the outcomes. I thought that I was actually reaching a lot of students, and apparently I was mistaken. Maybe I was wrong to assume that I am useful when I'm sharing my knowledge with others. Apparently I could be better substituted by a website that has the solutions posted word-for-word.I dno't see any point in doing that, though.
The bright side is that Dr C seems to think that maybe part of the reason they don't like me is because I don't give out the answers. In fact, he specifically likes that. He told me that I'm welcome to come back over the summer and next semester, although he didn't make any specific effort to try to convince me to stay. I really hope that I do end up getting an internship, just so that I can move on and try something new. Maybe it's time for me to give up trying to help people learn, and start focusing on trying to show people that I'm better than them. Unfortunately, it seems that I can't do either one with any significant success.
|added Tue April 06 2004 at 6:54 PM
|Yesterday, I had good news, but I was feeling kinda blue. So I called and talked with Mom. I wanted to share the news and needed a bit of a lift.
Today, as you can tell by the four previous entries, I'm a bit disturbed by the results of the student evaluations. So my first thought was "I'm going to go call Mom."
Now, don't get me wrong, I really do love my Mom. Obviously, I do, because otherwise I wouldn't turn to her. It hurt as I realized, though, that it seemed that she was the only one I *could* turn to. My family is the only entity that cares about my accomplishments. My mom's the only one that I can call when I'm feeling sad, lonely, depressed, irritated, or upset about something. And it hurts.
Reality is that if she weren't my mother, if they weren't my family, they'd have no reason to care about me. I understand the importance of family bonds and sticking together, but if there wasn't that blood connection, then they wouldn't care any more than anybody else. That's fine in and of itself, because reality is that there is that family bond and they do care. The problem is that it means nothing when I'm feeling down about myself, because their care and concern has nothing to do with me as a person. I have nobody that *chooses* to be there for me for no other reason than because I'm me.
Yes, I know that part of the reason I feel like that is because I have a horrible "love life," but even besides that, aren't people supposed to have close friends to lift them up and keep them going? Why is it that I'm always there for others when they are feeling bad, or when they're hungry, or tired of life, or whatever, but nobody comes to me when my life sucks? I feel so empty and used up. So used and emptied up.
I guess I'll go call Mom.