I’ve been working as a teaching assistant for a few weeks now and most of the expectations I had at the beginning have been met but there are a few trends and issues that I did not expect. As I mentioned in my previous post, I was a GWC student before I became a teaching assistant so I already had experience with the curriculum. While most of it has remained the same, I wasn’t expecting to encounter difficulties regarding the pacing of our lessons and projects. The slides we use for our daily lessons list the suggested amounts of time we should spend on each section, exercise, and project, but we’ve found that sometimes these suggestions are not accurate for our classroom. There have been days where we go through material and projects quickly so we have to develop another activity for the students to complete but there are also projects and lessons that we have to extend in order to ensure that the girls understand the material. I am surprised and proud of how much material the girls are learning in such a short amount of time.
Since starting, I’ve had the chance to interact with many locals, most being Autodesk employees. Our classroom participates in mentoring sessions and attends lectures hosted by the company so we’re able to interact with them a lot. While I am from the San Francisco Bay Area, I still try to explore other parts of the city by going out to eat, visiting museums, or attending events.
My first big mess-up occurred when new students were added to the classroom after the program had started. The other TA and I had to pull them aside and teach them a week’s worth of material in about an hour so they could be prepared to join the rest of the girls for the new projects. They were confused about the material but most of the other students were also confused until they actually started working through exercises by themselves. After asking the new students to complete some exercises it was evident that they still were not understanding the material. We spent more time reviewing and practicing but out of desperation to return them to class so they wouldn’t miss more material, I asked them to follow along while coded a solution and explained my reasoning. I thought that this method would help them catch on but I think that it intimidated them because the solutions were simple and they had spent a long time trying to figure them out. Eventually we sent them back to the classroom and they struggled a bit with the project.
While this mess-up wasn’t really “fixed” I did learn a lot from the experience and I changed my teaching approach. These students had only been in the classroom for a few hours, not days like the other students so they needed more time for practice. Now, they are doing well but I realized that I needed to be more patient with the students and let them struggle with errors before I help them so they can develop the patience and motivation to continue working. I would rather teach them how to work through their mistakes so they can be confident in their work and skills instead of doubting themselves and giving up.