During my time serving as the teaching assistant I feel that I have been able to provide resources to the students. Particularly, after a class in which a formerly incarcerated man spoke with us, a few students mentioned that they really felt they were missing out on the in-person experience. In response to this, I provided them with the information for Coalition to Abolish Death By Incarceration (CADBI), a local organization. CADBI offers visits to state correctional institutions during “normal times,” so I encouraged students to reach out and go on one of those visits when it is safe. I have also been able to facilitate discussions during class so that students grasp a more comprehensive understanding of the material. This has helped me improve my public speaking and leadership skills.
My understanding of teaching evolved over the semester through both experience as well as watching Professor Bonneau’s teaching style. He never wastes time lecturing up to the absolute last minute of class if there is not a fruitful discussion to be had. As such, the students feel that their time is valuable and have become more talkative in the class. I think that, by focusing on the actual relay of material rather than checking boxes, Professor Bonneau communicates to his students that learning is more than just assignments and participation points.
Being able to “take” the class twice has allowed me to develop nuanced opinions on issues pertaining to criminal justice. Further, taking the class with an entirely different set of students has opened up more progressive perspectives. Finally, I think we can talk very openly with one another from the virtual space. With all this in mind, I feel that the conversations have been honest, vulnerable, and worthwhile for the students. I think that the ability to review this material in the midst of a pandemic and in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement has produced engaging and relevant conversations, allowing me to expand my views.
As my time being a teaching assistant comes to an end, I hope to be able to take on other roles as a teaching assistant, using the skills I have gained during this semester. Further, I hope to serve as a resource for these students even after the semester ends. My hope is that, if students want to get more involved in criminal justice reform advocacy in Pittsburgh, I can help point them in the right direction.
Ultimately, this semester had potential to be less fulfilling than normal; however, I think we made the absolute best of it. I feel that, by bringing in outside speakers, students were still able to get the experiential learning component that they would have during “normal times.”