Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My Emotions!

Our benevolent god of the animated GIF, Buzzfeed, has graced us with another multimedia listicle thing-y, this time on what it is like being a new TA. They get it basically right, though what they describe isn't really limited to new TAs. The shifting feelings of despair, frustration, euphoria, and ambivalence have not gone away, at least as long as I teach. Sure, there's a little less despair as I grow more comfortable teaching, and probably a bit more frustration as I realize that just because I'm a better teacher than last year does not mean now I can get all of my students to actually care, but it's the same mix. 

It also got me thinking about the different feelings I get from being a reference librarian and being an instructor. My assistantship has me doing two things: working the reference desk at the main branch of a large academic library and teaching a couple sections of a weekly, for-credit information literacy/research skills course, primarily targeted at freshmen but with the occasional upperclassmen looking for a one-credit class. Looking at the emotions I feel during both parts of my job, I'd say they are similar, but everything that comes from the teaching part is just more intense than from the reference part.   

The sort of extreme pride and satisfaction that you get when the students finally get something? You only get that from the repeated interactions you get in a class. That's not to say I never get done with an extended reference interview and feel great. I do, and sometimes I really do feel that I've taught them something they will remember. But, when you realize from teaching a course that you have to explain the same concept or skill to freshmen for four straight weeks before they get it,1 you figure out that what you show them at the desk one time probably isn't sticking for most. But when you are tracking the same students week after week and you start to see them applying what they've learned? Fantastic. Things go similarly for the negative feelings. Those students who come up to the desk, want you do everything for them, and refuse to be taught? Annoying. But in 10 minutes they'll be gone. You get the same type of student in a course, they give you the same attitude week after week, and eventually you probably fail them? Much worse. 

But, at least in my experience, it's been worth it. The successes make the failures worth it. 

1) Or longer. Boolean!!!
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