An (Honest) Account of TA assessment


Week 8 into Semester one and my 6th week of teaching (ever) and I had my teaching assistant assessment from my boss (aka the course leader). It happened to coinside with one of my busiest weeks of presentations – 3 hours, 3 seperate seminars and 9 presentations between them. From the little experience I have, I figured that I would pushed for time and wouldn’t have much time for discussion afterwards, therefore I didn’t write a lesson plan…

Of course, this would be the week where several of the students that were due to present were 1) Ill (it happens), 2)pled ignorance (What? I was meant to present? Nobody told me!) 3) not check their emails until RIGHT before the class (Nergh – once I’ve done this a few more times, I may start getting a bit tougher on them..) and 4)Just plain give up on their degree and didn’t turn up. I thought I had 9 people to mark, I ended up only having 4.

It gets to 11.20am – Sod’s law, both students that were due to present in the seminar I was being marked on, had finished presented and I had about 30 seconds to think up what the HELL I was meant to do for the remaining 40 minutes…

The theme of the lecture that week was technology and culture – I took a similar class during my masters, which was ran by my Ph.D. supervisor – so I tried to think back to examples that were used then. I remember the “One Laptop, One Child” campaign and fired this random video up on youtube… all the while absolutely sh*tting myself, the eyeballs of 15 students (and my boss) staring at my back as I try and disguise my fear..

I had a whole 1 minute 2 second distraction to come up with a convincing lesson plan.

Technology, culture – split the class in two and get them to debate argue for and against one child, one laptop iniciative. Encourage them to think about economical, political and cultural reasons (on both sides) – and just hope it worked. (Thanks to twitter, a thread of discussion that had occured a few weeks ago – my 24/7 access line to those who know far more about this sort of stuff than I do…)

And with that, I split the class in two and explained that the only information that they have about the scheme is the video I had shown them and anything they had found out themselves prior to this. I was also keen for them to think outside their comfort zones – so asked them to keep personal opinions outside of the argument and focus on producing a convincing arguement instead.

And with that, we got 35 minutes of absolutely brilliant student led discussion – I was so proud of them – and breathing a massive sign of relief. It was rewarding to see them working through the thought process and coming to their own conclusions from either side.

As they were leaving, several thanked me and said they really enjoyed taking part in the discussion – it felt good actually – and I was relieved, I was completely rattling with nerves so much have done a good job of hiding it from them!

As I was leaving, I explained to my boss that I was expecting so many presentations and totally paniced – and he me that he couldn’t have asked for anything better from the seminars and said that they were excellent (!) He also told me not to worry about not having something prepared, as I did a good job of thinking on my feet.

Many lessons learnt for me – that is, be prepared for the complete opposite of your own expectations. I’ll find out the rest of the feedback on Monday when we compare presentation marks. Fortunately I have a whole new subject and class to contend with next semester, as I’ve had my contract extended until at least May. I am curious to see how my opinion and teaching experiences change as I progress..

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Just a few things…

I think I am well over-due a blog entry. I’ve been spending the last few weeks sorting out a few things (and moving house, again!) and preparing myself for the looming January Ph.D. start date.

I got my Masters result a few weeks ago and if all goes to plan, I will be graduating with a MA with distinction(!) I am obviously over the moon with my result and I am hoping that it will put me on good footing for being the Ph.D.

From this, I have also begin my first job as a teaching assistant – tutoring once a week for the 2nd year undergraduate module, “New Media and the Wired World“. Hopefully if all goes to plan, I will have a 2nd module to teach next semester (unsure what it will be yet – probably be more media studies than new media studies – so I will have to do a bit of revision myself!), which would cover the first semester of my Ph.D. regarding work etc.

I’ve also been attending the Creative Coffee Morning (which is held at De Montfort Graduate Bar, every 2nd Wednesday 10-12: Facebook group here) – which pointed me in the direction of NESTA, more specifically an event called Amplifed08, which I will be attending in London next week. I’m keen to get more involved with such types of networking meetings and events as I feel that, firstly, they are a source of valuable connections which could later provide excellent resources in terms of my future research and secondly, I really do agree with the shared, collaborative sense of creativity that such organisations are promoting. Furthermore,  I leave the events feeling positive and motivated, which can only be a good thing!

Not much else to report, I hope to do a bit of work looking at the importance of avatars and identity (especially when it comes to using Twitter) and get some of the smallworlds stuff kickstarted again before christmas. I’m hoping now things have settled and I’m about to set foot back into a regular routine that my blog posts will be more frequent. We’ll see how it goes!

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