Today I submitted the final grades for the General Biology II lab that I teach. Its nice to be done with TAing for the semester, and as I graded those last lab reports and exams, I realized that I am not only done being a TA for the semester, but forever! (unless I decide to go for a PhD)
I plan on a future career in education/outreach, so this will definitely not be the last time I teach. However, sending in those final grades today still made me realize that the end of grad school brings so many things in my life to a close. Therefore, it’s easy to get sentimental about little things that I never thought I would miss, such as setting up a practical exam, or grading what seem like endless lab reports. Additionally, TAing puts you in a nice spot in terms of your relationship with students, as I think students see TAs as less intimidating than professors, while still respecting us as authority figures.
After teaching this lab for three semesters, I am relatively confident in my ability to convey the information and run the lab. However I was worried this semester, that I’d be so busy finishing up my research and writing my thesis that I might put less effort into my teaching duties. This fear began to manifest itself at the beginning of the semester when my students seemed disinterested compared to past years students. However as the semester went on I was pleasantly surprised how my students warmed up to the subject matter, and my teaching style, which was reflected by their improving quiz and exam averages. I even got some positive feedback from students (which is rare to get, in person) several of them telling me how information I presented in the lab really helped them understand key concepts that related to both lab and lecture.
Finally, earlier this week, as I painstakingly graded those last exams and lab reports, I came across several drawings that reminded me why I will probably miss TAing and inspired this blog post. To give these some context, for one of the drawings in this lab report, students were instructed to draw a member of the Class Mammalia. I told them they could draw any mammal they wanted, and cringed as several students said “Sweet! I am just going to draw a stick figure!”, displaying their excitement about the lack of effort required for this drawing. Despite this, I got some very creative,and thoughtful drawings. I have posted my favorite two here.
While these drawing might have simply been unsuccessful attempts to get extra credit, I’d rather think that these students really enjoyed my lab, and that the things I taught them made them appreciate science a bit more. Either way I really appreciate how these students have inspired me to reflect on what a rewarding experience TAing has been overall.