This is the third week of school, and for me it is my third week of being a Teaching Assistant for Caroline in English 201. It is going well… I think.
On the first day, we went through the syllabus–and that was fine. Caroline asked me to explain a few things from a student’s perspective, such as the fourth wall. So I explained that best I could, and all the students just stared at me with blank looks. I realized, they didn’t even know what the verb ‘workshop’ meant… well, this was awkward. So then I tried rambling about that and I confused them even MORE. They asked, “so I just sit here silently and everyone talks about what I wrote??”, I tell them yes and they looked TERRIFIED.
I remembered there was a time when I first heard this verb of ‘workshop’ too. And yes, even then it seemed daunting–and it still is terrifying. I told them that I get nervous too when my piece is workshopped, but it’s best to look down, bite your nails, and take notes. They still just looked confused. Then they asked, “well what should I write about?”, and I told them that they could write about anything. I gave them the very sound advice that I received as a young writer that you must distance yourself from your piece. Nothing is too close to you. I told them that often times, I write about my father and it feels numb to me now–in a good way. After hearing about my ‘dark’ writing and ability to write about my family and still having it workshopped, I saw some relief on their faces. I think that came from the fact that I am also a student, and if they saw I did it and am continuing to do it, then they can do it, too.
The next class Caroline actually was diagnosed with Strep … so class was cancelled, unfortunately.
This past class on Tuesday, we went over poetry and creative non-fiction. These kids were LIVELY (that is mostly because I told them that participation gets them a LOT of brownie points) so they were talking SO much and it was beautiful. They asked questions, talked with each other, and each had such an individual voice and personality. Truly it is an inspiring class, and I am honored to be a part of it.
I will keep you updated on my chronicles as a TA. Wish me luck!
2 Replies to “Week 3: Being a TA for Intro to Creative Writing”
Congrats on becoming a TA! I am so excited for you! As someone who had Professor Beltz-Hosek’s Creative Writing class last semester, that class definitely has a welcoming environment. What I didn’t know as a student going in, and also as a similar position this summer as a teaching assistant for middle schoolers, is how much you learn from others. I guess my tip is to be open to any direction the class goes! I still keep in touch with my writing buddies from that class, and I’m sure you’d be a good mentor for them too.
The thought of teaching anyone anything has me petrified. Especially with something like creative writing, I have a hard time actually articulating my thoughts in such an up-in-the-air manner like speaking. I can’t imagine the pressure and how it would haunt my spoken words if I was looked upon as an authority. I second guess myself all the time and I constantly reflect on what and why I’m doing. It’s to the point where I’ve just decided that I’m indecisive and I have to force myself to say something even if I don’t agree with it completely. I feign confidence (but isn’t that just as good as the real thing?). In writing or with sufficient time, I can actually get my opinion down with some actual confidence, but every time I have to convince myself to commit to not apathy, more resignation to the way I left the words, otherwise I’ll worry (which plays into that distance you were talking about). Maybe that mechanism’s a little more self-destructive than it ought to be. Either way, I’ve kinda sorta hijacked your good-natured stroll into being a TA into a reflection on my whole character.
I wish you all the luck in the world with your adventures in TA-itude, but I doubt you’ll need it.