I’ve been really lucky in the fact I’ve had the opportunity to UTA five times during my time at Pitt for a variety of film classes: Filmmaking 1, Filmmaking 4, Broadcast 1, and Television Analysis (twice). My relationship with Dr. Dana Och has spanned two full years at this point—starting with taking Technologies of the Body with her in Fall 2019, I’ve been with Dr. Och every semester since, whether it be as a student or as a UTA. By the time we’d decided that I would stay on as her TV Analysis teaching assistant again for Spring 2021, she mentioned that I should look into CUTF. Dr. Och is well aware of my love for podcasting, especially when it comes to discussing Film/TV/pop culture-media, which is why she was on board for altering her final project to be one that incorporates my interests, as well as allowing me to take a more forward approach when being active in our class. It honestly felt like the project came together very naturally; seeing as that I was already comfortable with Dr. Och due to our longstanding understanding of one another, I had no worries when it came to pitching, tweaking, and working out the wrinkles for our final project. When people ask me about potentially becoming a UTA, I always advise them to try and find a professor + class that you’re comfortable with and excited about. If you’re interested in the material and relaxed in your environment, it hardly feels like work at all (as cheesy as that sounds!).
Since this is the second time I’m acting a teaching assistant for TV Analysis (and my third time being in this class as a whole), I feel as though I’ve been able to settle into my role more-so than last semester. That doesn’t mean I’ve completely forgotten the jitters and questions that I had last semester, though. It was an interesting switch when viewing the same material from a teaching lens as opposed to a learning lens; I already knew everything we were going to talk about, but I had to change gears so that I could help explain the material instead of taking it in as a student. Luckily, I’ve had Dr. Och to consult as needed. Whether it be an uncertainty on how to explain a concept to the class or to double-check the episodes that we’re going to show, I’ve always had the opportunity to ask questions, pose lesson plans of my own, and pick out the articles to read as well as shows to watch. I’m as much of a participant as the professor is, with the same freedoms that Dr. Och has when creating her class.
In terms of this project in particular, I was mainly concerned with how to restructure the final in a way that coincides with our lesson plans, as well as giving enough of an example + resources that everyone could complete the podcast properly. Dr. Och and I were able to work on a shared document, in which we would plot out the stages of the podcast and re-order as needed, really working as a unit as opposed to two individuals. If I wrote something on our final project packet document one night, I could always expect to see comments in the morning—and vice versa. This is another situation in which being comfortable with my teaching mentor really helped me feel as though I could experiment with the layout and information of the course. When it came to weaving together my personal interests, choosing content, and the taking the chance to lead the class as a teacher myself, I’ve been able to fall into role easily. You’d think after taking the same course three times I’d start to get tired of the material—fortunately, I love the subject so much that I find something new to focus on each semester!
[Cover photo: one of the softwares I used to record my example podcast. Deceptively simple looking, but tricky to navigate in reality!]