December 2018

Life as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (TA) teaser image
When I entered graduate school, I was not able to setup a career plan as I was not sure about staying in academia or moving to the industry. I wanted to give academia a try as it was new to me (I had prior work experience). In the first year of my PhD program, I got the opportunity to be a teaching assistant. In this blog, I will writing my experience as a TA and how it helped me in developing skills.
  1. Communication: My communication was not bad to begin with. But, it was not the best. It improved with each help and laboratory session. Along with communication, my moderation and facilitation skills also improved drastically.
  2. Productivity: This is something that I am proud about. My efficiency in dealing with people let’s say group projects and assignments went from an average to really good. I was able achieve more in research as I had to spend time in preparing for class.  
  3. Problem solving: As a student, I thought TA knew everything about the subject. I got to quickly learn that this does not happen in most of the cases. In a class of 72 which relied on programming, I got to master my quick debugging skills.
  4. Patience: In academia it is always necessary to be patient. Whether it is teaching in class or grading, patience is the key.  
  5. Genuine: Each person has his/her own way of solving a problem. It is important as a TA to have your own approach to solve a problem (e.g. coming up with your own solution for homework). I had my own approach to teach and to solve problems, which motivated me even further.
As of today, I have been a TA for 6 semesters (3 years) and I strongly believe that it has significantly impacted me as a person for the better. The next step forward is the Graduate Teaching Fellowship that will make me an Instructor. I hope write about it my future. Last but not the least, TA has made me realize that academia is also an option for me.

I wish all my fellow graduate students the best of luck in their endeavor!

Pavan Akula
Pavan is a PhD student in the Department of Civil Engineering

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