Last semester, yours truly decided to be an undergraduate teaching assistant. She didn't exactly realise what she was in for.
After passing multiple stages of the recruitment process and finally landing the job, I was elated at getting to re-use my dusty red pen from a previous teaching job.
Previously, I only pitied students (including myself) who had to stay up all night writing assignments. Little did I know there were TAs staying up all night crying, equally miserable having to check the entire section's work.
The TA experience humanised faculty members to me as I couldn't believe the things they have to read on a regular basis. It isn't apparently uncommon for people to start writing essays without so much as fully reading the topic. People also get carried away with plagiarising as the chances are astronomical that students sitting beside each other both had the same near death experience seven years ago when asked to write about "An Incident that Changed My Life".
Another feat which I never fully appreciated teachers for is maintaining objectivity when grading. Sometimes, when checking copies, I was in a fabulous mood and in other times, I was half passed out at three in the morning, starving and swatting mosquitoes with one hand while checking copies with the other. After giving minimum pass marks to six consecutive copies, I realised I clearly wasn't doing my job right. Needless to say, the marks we provide are never final and are always scrutinised by faculty members and edited before they are handed out.
The entire semester was a learning experience running around the department, lots of late nights and pulling my hair out at the incalculable number of ways an APA citation can be done wrong. This all culminated in me proctoring while students sat for their final exams, when suddenly, a name on a student's paper caught my eye.
I had been checking copies of nameless, faceless students the whole time but here was the name of the person whose scripts tormented me the most and made me lose sleep for an entire semester. She was right in front of me. I wanted to do many things at that point; it took every bit of strength in my body as I calmly and professionally walked past. The role of a TA varies greatly between departments let alone between universities but my experience is based on working for the English department.
Mrittika Anan Rahman is a daydreamer trying hard not to run into things while walking. Find her at email@example.com