TAs balance time as students, teachers

Sarah Haas

Balancing schoolwork, activities and a social life can be hard for anyone, but for teaching assistants, the task can be even more daunting.

Adrienne Crowson, teaching assistant and graduate student in anthropology, said she spends at least 20 hours per week attending her undergraduate students’ classes, teaching 150 students in six sections of recitation, being available during office hours and grading assignments.

“It’s really tricky to find the right balance, and time management becomes an even more important skill,” Crowson said.

Teaching assistants are offered positions within their departments to assist professors.

“TAs fulfill a very interesting role because they are simultaneously students and teachers, and I think sometimes students forget that,” Crowson said.

Kimberly LeVelle, teaching assistant and graduate student in English, said her dual role allows her to gain new perspectives.

“I think being a TA gives you a lot more respect for your own teachers,” LeVelle said.

LeVelle said she plans on becoming a professor, so her experience as a TA at Iowa State and previous institutions gives her ideas and pointers for her classes and future classes. She said she pays closer attention to her professors’ methods in the classroom.

“I think more about how I can use different ways of teaching,” LeVelle said.

Crowson said her years as a student help her understand the motives of her students.

“One of my biggest frustrations is the amount of cheating and plagiarizing. I see what my students are doing- I was in their shoes once too, and I still am a student,” she said.

“It’s kind of funny, because they’re not fooling us. It’s like they think they’re the only ones with Google,”

When Crowson receives papers with purposely incorrect formatting such as 3-inch margins or increased spacing between characters, she said she becomes frustrated.

“It’s like, come on, guys. The work and the formatting are not that hard, and I’m here to help,” she said.

Although some students’ attitudes are frustrating, Crowson said her work with students actually revitalizes her interest in her chosen field.

“It’s worth it when I can help make them as excited about anthropology as I am. I try to make my classes interesting and discussion-based, because I know that I wouldn’t go to class if I thought it was a waste of my time,” Crowson said.

LeVelle said she tries various ways of teaching to intrigue students.

“Things don’t always work out the way you want them to, but that’s part of teaching,” she said.