Tag: TA Stories

“I was not calling you an asshole”

“I was not calling you an asshole” is something I just had to say to a student.  I must explain.

Class ended.  My students had mostly left the room, except for one guy (leather jacket guy).  He mentioned the professor that teaches in the room before me and how she must love purple.  (Honest to goodness, she wears purple clothes, shoes, lipstick, and her hair is even purple!)  I explained to him that I could probably do that with hot pink.

He said, “Even the hair?”

“Oh absolutely!” I replied.  “I had hot pink hair when I was younger.  I was goth and tried out every hair color at least once.”

“You were goth?!?!” He asked, exasperated.

“I sure was, but I acted the same as I do now.  I was always happy and chipper.” I explained.

It was at this moment that he was nearly to the door while the other students for the next class were coming in.  He made a grand hand gesture and said “I can’t even believe that you chose to dress like that (grand hand gesture) when you act like this! (another grand up and down hand gesture).”

The young lady that entered the room had this insane look on her face and she looked mad.  Like how dare he say that to me?!  She had fire in her eyes and a look on her face that told the entire story.  I said “Oh….no…he was reacting to the information that I used to be goth.  He wasn’t being an asshole.”

It was then that I realized if he heard only part of that response, he might take it wrong, so I call after him and say “The girl that came into class only heard your last statement about how I dressed and act and she was very upset.  Just to be clear, I defended you and said that you were only reacting to a previous conversation and that you are definitely not an asshole.”  He laughed and we chatted for another minute.  To end, I reiterated, “Ok, well, I just needed you to know that I was absolutely not calling you an asshole in any way.”

I turned around to use the elevator and saw 3 other professors looking at me like I was absolutely insane.

I took the stairs instead of the elevator.

The Third Amendment

There are moments that make teaching worthwhile.  It makes the grading, the prep, and the 5 billion questions a week totally worth it.  One such moment was when I asked my students to list the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution (the Bill of Rights).  I then asked them to rank order them by personal importance.  Following this, I asked them to explain which one amendment they would choose to get rid of and provide a reason why.  Simple enough.

I asked my students which one they didn’t want to keep.  In the wise words of Shakespeare… I shit you not, she said the most truthful and hilarious thing I have heard all semester.  She said “I would get rid of the 3rd Amendment.”

Fully expecting this, I pushed for a reason why this amendment had to go.  She then said, “Well, I would be okay with getting rid of it because I would sure love to quarter some soldiers at my house.”  Her tone and inflection said it all.  I died.

A Fist Bump

It’s a small, simple thing, but I just had to share.  Dr. Awesome gave me a fist bump today!

We were talking before lecture (I’m his TA), and he saw my “coffee cup” and stated that I clearly had my coffee as fuel.  I said “Nope, it’s hot chocolate, I don’t drink coffee.”

To which he replied, “I don’t either!” and gave me a fist bump.

It’s the little things.

Apparently, I’m hott.

Ever google yourself?  We all do, I’m sure.  It had been a little while for me, but I had finally gotten my act together and put up my info and picture on the graduate student directory of my university.  I’m official.  Because I felt like I was somebody, I felt like I should now google myself to see how cool I am.

I did.  And it was awkward AF.

Apparently a student decided that they needed to let a secret out in the world of the web-based app Whisper.  That secret was that “The grad assistant (insert name and university) is hott.”

I don’t really know how to feel about this new-found information.  I don’t know who would have written that.  It is very strange and weird.  I’m older (mid-30’s) and most of my students are 18-21 years old.

Until that moment of discovery, I had always thought I would want a chili pepper on Rate My Professor; however, I now understand just how awkward that validation of hotness is.

Campaign ads and…Incest?

The title cannot adequately describe what happened while teaching yesterday.  Clearly, an explanation is needed.

Yesterday, is one of the days that I teach.  I have 2 classes, and the professor I TA for was going to sit in on the classes.  This is not just any professor.  This is THE most badass political scientist in my field.  Yes, I may be a bit biased, but he is one of the two professors who made moving from the warmth of the South to the craptacular weather in the Midwest worth it.  He, of all people, was going to be sitting in on my classes to evaluate me.  Oh.My.God.   I was already a bundle of nerves and felt like dying.

The first class went off without a hitch.  My students were talkative and fantastic.  They enjoyed the exercises and the selected campaign ads.  I was able to speak and have a decent discussion with Dr. Amazing in the room.  Naturally, I felt confident going into the second class just an hour later.

I shall interject a thought at this point.  I have learned that whenever I begin to get confident, something usually follows to bring me back down a peg or two.  I must have done some really really crappy stuff growing up that I don’t even remember doing because this backlog of karma bites me in my ass every single time it can.

Class number 2 begins and I felt like I was rocking it.  I had pulled up the 5 campaign ads I was showing, I handed out the surveys I had lovingly crafted, and began showing the first one:  I Like Ike

Somewhere in that pause between completing that ad and opening up the It’s Morning Again in America (Reagan 1984) ad, the Campaigns circa 1800 theoretical ad began playing in the silenced audio-visual equipment land.  YouTube was on autoplay (apparently) and that short little ad had finished and went on to an episode of Drunk History.  For those who may not have seen Drunk History, its a show where they get Historians rip-roaring drunk and have them explain a story from history.  Naturally, it gets a little wild.

I go to show the Reagan ad and un-mute the AV equipment and there’s good old Drunk History talking about INCEST!  And that guy is talking about incest in a way that only a drunk historian can.  Something along the lines of “Incest, just plain old incest” came out of the speakers as a boat calmly sailed on the harbor in the video they were supposed to watch.

“That’s not it!  THAT IS NOT IT!” came flying out of my mouth as I struggled to mute the AV Equipment quickly enough.  I figure out the problem quickly and in an effort to save face, I roll with it.

“I am so glad that this could happen when Dr. Awesome is with us today” and do my best Vanna White impression toward the screen.

Death would have been a welcomed friend.

I pulled it together, played the remaining ads (Reagan’s, Campaigns circa 1800, Daisy Girl, and Obamaville) and we had a lively discussion regarding all these fantastic ads.  We discussed the primacy of affect (Zajonc 1980, 1984; Lodge & Taber, 2005; Casino & Lodge, 2007) and how individuals make candidate evaluations more on their summary tally of emotional impressions (Lodge, McGraw, & Stroh, 1989; Lodge, Steenbergen, & Brau, 1995).  We talked about why attack ads are advantageous.  If an individual votes against Candidate A, then Candidate B basically has a free pass to do or say whatever they want.  A person voting against Candidate A will not be persuaded to change their minds.  Voting against someone is basically more resistant to counterattitudinal stimuli (Bizer & Petty, 2005).

As soon as class was over, Dr. Awesome bolted and on the inside I was like “NOOOO!  Wait!!”

I drug myself up to my office floor, stopped to my friend’s office (which is the first office beside the elevator), told her the story.  I then drug myself to my office, flopped down, put my head on my desk and told my office-mate (the guy one).  We all had a good laugh, while I felt like dying.

The only thing that cheered me up and made me feel okay was calling my professor, mentor, and friend from undergrad – Dr. Batman.  He got his PhD from this same university and knows all of the professors.  I explained the event and he cracked up.  He then said “If you get any trouble from it, remind him that you are my student, so what could he expect?”  Then he gave me about 10 insane stories of things he messed up working with Dr. Awesome that made mine pale in comparison.  Clearly, he wasn’t fired – so neither will I.

I can now laugh about this, without wanting to simultaneously die.  Who knows – maybe Dr. Awesome will like me more now.  Who knows?!

My New Students

Thursday and Friday provided me with my first look at my new students.  They are going to be fantastic!  I am so incredibly excited.  They are going to be great.

To start things out, when calling roll I ask them what their favorite band or musician is.  I tell them that if they say they like everything, I will assign them a favorite and it will be Aqua (the people who sing Barbie Girl).  I need to come up with a newer, more humiliating one.

It never fails though.  Things are going along quite well and then…  there’s that one student who says, “I like listening to the old stuff like 90’s music.”  It hits me like a brick.  It sucks the wind out of me, and I’m like “I’m old!!!”  How is 90’s music considered old, but then I think about it.  It was 20 years ago.  How did that even happen?   I have students that were born in 98.  I was a Junior in High School!  How did this even happen?

I suddenly have the urge to grab a Mike’s Hard Lemonade (because yes, I’m that kind of girl) and cry into it while smothering wrinkle cream on my face.

Student Evaluations

Student Evals came in on Thursday.  I was waiting for this moment all winter break.  It was finally time to see what my students thought of me.

I’m going to interrupt my excitement to bring you a public service announcement.  IF you ever find yourself in the unique position of reading your student evaluations right before you run off to meet your new set of students for the new semester – DO NOT READ THEM.  Put them down and walk away.

Yeah, so I didn’t have anyone to tell me that.

I read them.  I must say that I was very pleased, for the most part.  They were asked what I did well and what I could improve upon.  Simple.  More than half of the evaluations actually wrote that there was nothing I could improve upon.  I had some students write “She was great” or “she was amazing” in that section.  I had a few who left that part blank, which I suppose I could have counted in the no improvement needed section, but for some reason I feel uncomfortable assuming that a blank space means I didn’t need to improve to that student.

Other places where I needed to improve were:  I should have told whether I was liberal or conservative.  That student couldn’t tell and it drove her nuts.  (I would say I won the day on that one!!)  Another suggested that I should use more hot button issues (I honestly have no idea how I could have included more without getting fired but ok).  I had several say that they wish I had given them more feedback on the writing assignments (I had been told by the professor in charge of me that I was not to do that unless they asked for it individually, so totally a pass on that one), a few said they didn’t understand the grading system.  And 6 students said that they felt I treated them like they were children.  (Insert sobbing)

I felt terrible!   I think I know who those students were because they were all lumped together and said the same thing (word for word) – and that was my bad class.  They weren’t bad, but they were just that one class that was hard to get anything out of, and they were moody and I had to drag them along every single week.  But really, I felt like crap.  I would never ever want my students to feel like they were being talked down to – ever.  They all had something good to say about me too, but it was just hard hearing that.  It affected me entirely.

The worst comment is that one of my students said that she felt that I was so knowledgeable that she felt like she couldn’t come ask me questions because she would feel stupid.  That broke my heart.  I couldn’t work the AV equipment half of the time, so I don’t know how I appeared to be this unapproachable person who had their crap together.  I said dumb things, I ran into stuff, I struggled with technology.  It just made me sad that she felt that way.

Okay….now to the good.  I had about 40% mention that I was knowledgeable.  Actually, one said that I knew everything about the subject.  Ha.  Approachable = 6; Caring = 5; Respectful of everyone’s views = 13; Energetic and Enthusiastic = 21; Passionate = 5; Prepared = 6; Encouraged Full Participation = 18; Made Class Fun = 21; Good sense of humor = 10; Open Minded = 7

One said that he appreciated that I never yielded to the class when no one would answer my questions.  Another said that I “made it worth coming to class instead of lecture.  Learned more here.  Enjoyed my time in here.”  So yeah – that one said he/she learned more from my class than from the lecture (by a real professor).  That one made me cringe because I don’t want a target on my back – yet it was still pretty awesome.  I had a lot of great feedback.  I am definitely taking the negative things to heart and will try to change them for this semester, and I hope I will have great feedback at the end of this semester as well.