Last spring, I was approached by one of my professors who suggested that I apply to be a UTA–an undergraduate teaching assistant. It has been a wonderful opportunity, and despite any extra work that I might have to do for the position, I am happy to have this experience under my belt. But how exactly did I get the position? What work do I have to do? What are the helpful experiences that I (and you!) can get from something like this?
The professor who approached me (and for whom I’m currently TA-ing) was my Italian professor for two of my classes last semester, both of which I was taking the Honors section for. I don’t believe the position was advertised or posted anywhere, so my professor’s outreach was how I found out about the position. In the same way, you could even e-mail your own professors to see if they know any information if this is something you are interested in. From there, I sent in a résumé and waited until I eventually got the email confirming that I was accepted; while it may be a different process depending on the department, this was required for me so that my professor could nominate me for the position.
An undergraduate TA’s workload depends upon the professor for whom they’re TA-ing for, but for me, the amount of work has been easy to balance with my other schoolwork. I meet with my professor weekly for about forty-five minutes, where we go over the work I’ve done over the past week and what I need to do over the next week. Usually, that work involves uploading files and submitting grades onto Canvas, occasionally making a PowerPoint, and sometimes correcting students’ work. As a UTA, I can’t actually assign grades myself (the professor obviously knows more than I would!), but the corrections are based on my own knowledge. Especially because I’m doing this for a professor who teaches mostly language classes, much of the PowerPoints or lists that I’m asked to make are for grammar concepts in the language. Finally, unlike a graduate TA, I don’t have to go to the class sessions. That may just be a benefit of my situation, but it’s very helpful given the amount of classes that I already take.
Being a UTA can provide a great experience for students who are interested in the possibility of teaching in the future, as well as for those thinking about graduate school and wanting a taste of TA-ing, since many graduate programs require students to TA while in school. It’s also a great opportunity to develop your skills in whatever class you are assisting with; I know for a fact that this experience has helped improve my Italian skills, both in terms of reading it as well as speaking with my professor. Being a UTA also allows you to get to know a professor better and build important connections with them. I’m going to be studying abroad this Winter Session, and the application required a recommendation from a professor; thanks to helping out my professor with this TA job, it felt much easier asking him to send in a recommendation for me.
All in all, being an undergraduate TA is an experience that I would recommend to anyone who has the opportunity. It can allow you to get more experience within your major, network with professors and faculty, and help you learn more about the subject in the process!
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