As I mentioned in an earlier post, Dr. Horton’s Critical Making course fundamentally shaped my approach to college. When I first arrived, I tried to anticipate everything and plan my four years out by day two. However, I quickly learned that doors open and close in exciting ways, so I should keep an open mind. The concepts from this course and the new world of maker spaces that it illuminated for me are key components that I thought about and engaged with long after the course ended. In an effort to pay it forward, I was interested in working with his class and strengthening our existing relationship. In pursuing teaching assistantships, I think it is important to consider what you want from the experience. It is also important to choose a professor that is interested in your work or in you as a person. This makes the experience more enjoyable and could lead to a good letter of recommendation or other exciting opportunities.
In embarking on this project, I was unsure of exactly what expertise I could bring to the classroom. After some reflection, I realized that I did have a lot of experience on the concepts we explore and am a good example of taking advantage of these maker spaces. I was worried about my level of expertise with some of the programs, like CAD, and machinery, like the 3D printer, but because of this perspective, I am able to create helpful instructions and videos for the students. I think the energy I possess as a fellow student is especially crucial in a virtual environment. To overcome these uncertainties, I tried my best to be honest and communicate effectively with Dr. Horton on my abilities so we could plan accordingly. There were moments where I could have executed my roles better, but this is a learning process and I must forgive myself for the occasional stumble. As long as the teaching assistant is giving an honest effort, most professors are thrilled to have them helping out.
I think teaching as a concept is extremely interesting. It is an ancient discipline, yet we have much to improve on. Incorporating all the available resources and utilizing new technology is daunting, but necessary. For general information on teaching, I think it is best to reach out to professors and TA’s about their experience and approach. In addition to reflecting on your own experience and what worked well, there is a variety of literature out there ranging from simple to complex concepts and techniques. My personal favorite that is geared towards higher education is a book called “Collected Wisdom: Strategies and Resources from TAs for TAs” written by CMU. I think it has wonderful points and is very in depth about what works well. I would recommend reaching out to professors and reading smaller articles first before delving into this book. I think my biggest recommendation, and this can be applied to all pursuits, is to pursue anything without reservations and give it your best efforts. In more colloquial terminology: shoot your shot and full send it.