All I am saying is give TAs a chance

By Martha Lueck

Just when I thought all five of my classes were put into the perfect schedule to fulfill requirements and graduate on time, there was a dilemma regarding Sign Language 201. There was no professor for the class at the scheduled time. In this type of situation, the students can consider alternative ways to continue the class with the efforts of a teacher’s assistant (TA).

After the class discussed the issue with NIU’s School of Allied Health and Communicative Disorders chair, Sue Ouellette, one solution was to have the professor videotape his lectures. The TA would show it to the class under the professor’s instruction.

From personal experience, I feel that TAs are qualified to fill in for professors without instruction. It seems like a simple solution. According to Ouellette, this violates university policy.

“It’s the job of the chair to figure out if there’s a way to deliver the course to the students that are enrolled in a way that maintains the integrity of the course,” Ouellette said. “The instructor’s always responsible for what goes on in the classroom. The TAs teach under faculty members.”

Some students from other classes considered several sides to the idea of having a TA step in to actually teach. Samantha Navarro, freshman pre-athletic training major, felt the value in a TA depends on his or her experience and overall personality traits.

“I think they should be a good leader, somewhat authoritative and obviously know what they’re trying to teach us,” Navarro said.

Navarro also said her visual arts TA is better at connecting to students on a more personal level. She felt that she could relate more to her because the TA is younger.

Ideally, TAs would be better equipped to instruct an intimate discussion class on their own. Orating lectures, however, is a different story.

“I think it’s better that professors [teach lecture classes] just because they’re used to being in front of all those people and being able to coordinate with everything,” Navarro said. “I think TAs are better for a smaller classroom.”

Like Navarro, Courtney Cartwright, senior communicative disorders major, felt that the ability of a TA to teach depends on the circumstances of the class and their personality types.

“If you’re both comfortable with each other and neither one of you are intimidated, the TA feels more comfortable telling you the answer, and you feel like you’re getting the right information,” Cartwright said.

While Cartwright does see the value in assistance from a TA, she had a negative experience being taught by a TA in another one of her classes.

“He taught the entire lecture without the professor,” Cartwright said. “I don’t think he knew the pace of the class, and he didn’t know where to really start. He went through and gave the wrong answers to practice questions. The professor came in the next day of class and had to correct everything.”

Cartwright made a good point by showing that not all TAs are cut out for the job as a substitute professor. However, not all TAs are like this. Everyone has a different view on how qualified their TAs are.

I believe that it is important to keep an open-mind and give TAs the chance to expand their teaching experience. I’ve heard older adults saying things like, “You might think this way, but it didn’t work out for me.”

That’s not how young people want to think. The whole point of growing up is to solve problems and take chances. When it comes to important classes, the best way is the simplest way. Let the young and knowledgeable take a seat to solve a temporary problem on their own.

Who knows? Maybe they’ll teach us something new about ourselves and we’ll find more potential.