Van Dear Graaf: A salute to my teaching assistants

Having just completed my first year of studies at Western, I have been sitting around home reminiscing about my year. One thing that became apparent to me during this time is the influence a TA can have on a course and a student.

Coming into school, I had only heard of TAs as the sad/angry/elitist people who would grade my papers and never hand out a decent mark. This opinion was forged into me from constantly hearing phrases like “I wrote a great essay, but my TA is a jerk” and “The one TA who marked my test is the hard marker, that’s why I failed” from my older siblings when they would return home at the holidays.
My experience at Western opened my eyes to a differing view.

Being enrolled in several science classes, I had TAs present not only in marking, but running our lab and tutorial sessions as well. While there were instances where the ugly stereotypical TA moments crept in (not caring attitude, talking down to students) from a select few of my TAs, this could not overtake the influence TAs had on my year.

Many of my TAs would actually take the time to talk to you during an experiment, explain in detail a concept until you actually understood it and were always offering up helpful advice. Upon realizing they aren’t scary people, just students like us, I found my TAs to be a great source of information on not only course work, but approaches to studying (Who knew biology, chemistry and physics all held different study methods to be successful?), surviving mid-term/exam time and university life in general. I can only hope a few of them move on to future teaching careers as they have a great knack for it and can continue to have a positive influence on students in the future.

A special thank you goes here to my chemistry lab TA, who spiced up a boring Monday night lab by quoting the Glengarry Glen Ross play that was shown at Western this year. It somehow fit perfectly into a chemistry setting and added some needed entertainment to a night of endless iterations.

All of these TAs combined to make this year at Western a great one, and has me looking forward to the courses/labs have coming up in the new year.
Here’s hoping some of you read the Western News during the summer and take this as a big thank you. And to any TAs who happen to be reading this, just know that your hard work doesn’t go unnoticed by all of us undergrads, and it’s through your work that we end up successful. Please keep up the good work.

Richard Van Dear Graaf (Class of 2014)