I finished my first week as a teaching assistant for Africa: An Introductory Survey. So far, I think everything has gone better than I had expected. I've had a few students who think that the world revolves around them, the stars align according to their will, and so on. One student---for whom I was already making a concession because he had scheduled a family trip in the middle of the course (a four-week course)---was unhappy because I was docking his participation points because he "forgot" when his discussion session was. Some others have scheduled classes that overlap with the final week of this one and seem baffled that we want them to attend this class (and don't seem to have any sense of how insulting it is to be told that they need to miss this class so they can attend a different one). But these students are the rare exceptions. For the most part, the students seem perceptive and engaged, even those who are by their own admission only taking the class to fulfill a requirement. We've have limited discussion this week, but what we've had has been lively. A couple of the sections required a little more prodding to go deeper with their discussion, but everyone seems to be trying. And after every lecture, I have students coming up to me with questions and e-mailing questions.
And I'm enjoying being in front of the class and leading the discussions. I'm feeling a little more confident about my own knowledge of Africa. Most of the lecture material has been stuff that I know, although some of it I had forgotten that I knew. And I'm reassured that even the professor who is teaching the course struggles with some of the subject material. In the discussions, I feel like I have knowledge and ideas that I can share with the students to expand on the lecture material, although I'm still trying to figure out how to help them intuit more of the answers rather than directing them to the answers. And how to correct them when they get off course without discouraging them.
This term is a bit intense. I have two books to read in the next couple of days---one that we'll be discussing next week and one that I need to write a reading guide for---plus putting together a map quiz and starting to write the midterm exam. I've been completely exhausted when I get home each afternoon, although that's partly because I'm dealing with a bad back and thus taking vast amounts of ibuprofen. But two and a half hours of lecture plus a discussion section each day is also tiring.
I'm still dreading the grading---my least favorite part of teaching. And putting together my own lecture in a couple of weeks is a bit daunting. But I think I just might like this gig.