Tuesday, February 2, 2010

TA Duties

This semester I am the TA (teaching assistant) for a graduate class my advisor teaches. I've never been an TA before, but all PhD students here are "strongly encouraged" to be a TA at least once. And, since my advisor's older students have graduated, I'm his only student who has taken the class.

So this is a new experience for me, but I figure I have had enough TAs in my school career that I should almost automatically be qualified to be a good one. Fortunately I don't have to teach any lectures, but I do have to make up homework and tests, generate the solutions, collect and grade all the assignments, and hold office hours. In addition, there are one or two other highly important duties...

Figure: Breakfast. Most importantly, coffee.

Yep, this morning I was in charge of breakfast. This particular class is held at 8am, (nearly unheard of for a graduate class) so it is customary to have a continental breakfast for the students. This was my favorite part of class when I took it last year, and on more than one occasion the only reason I made it out of bed was the pastries calling to me.

Normally the breakfast is catered. However my advisor got too busy and forgot to set up the catering - so he asked if I could do it. I figured that the ordering process must be standard procedure, so the secretary ought to know how to do catering. Except, the secretary is on vacation for two weeks, and yesterday the backup secretary was out sick. Ack!

So I just bought breakfast myself. I have the class list so I knew how many were going to be there, and I remember what kind of food it was when I took the class. I ordered coffee from Dunkin Donuts (with cups and creamers and all the accessories included) the night before, and picked up assorted juices and bagels and pastries at the grocery store. This morning I picked up the coffee, packed up the bagels and jam and cream cheese (individually sized - I felt so clever) and juice, and off I went. I didn't get the customary fruit plate, but you know what? People can deal. I draw the line at slicing and dicing melons and berries and oranges.

The students were thrilled (they didn't know they were getting breakfast) and the advisor actually delayed class by five minutes so he could get coffee for himself. Let no one stand between academics and their caffeine fix...

Fortunately the backup secretary helped me today to get the catering set up, so I don't have to lug coffee around any more - whew! But I thought for my first day on the job as TA, I more than earned my keep.

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