Ask your TA: back-to-school edition
Tricks for Friday morning discussions and drunk graduate students
Trudie’s back! After an idyllic summer hanging out in her Alderman carrel, shooting the breeze in the Philosophy library, and having her pick of the Clemons DVDs, Trudie has returned to face the realities of the new semester — TA-ing. But Trudie’s here for you too — she isn’t agonizing over her Powerpoint and discussion questions to see you fall at the first hurdle! So life-hack your sections with these tried-and-Trudie tips, prompted by questions from readers just like you.
Alienated in Alderman writes: “I forgot the reading assignment for tomorrow and emailed my TA over an hour ago to ask what it is. I am in the library and just saw her on a computer here so I know she is online but she hasn’t replied to my email. WTF?”
Alienated: CTFO. One of two things is happening. One, she is working on her dissertation. Leave her alone. Two, she is using fast on-Grounds internet to watch an episode of “Game of Thrones.” Still, leave her alone. It’s a harsh world out there and you’re going to have to get used to some email dead zones — no matter how prompt TAs try to be (“Game of Thrones” permitting). Trudie’s advice?
(1) CHECK THE SYLLABUS. A solid place to start.
(2) Include a note in your email that you checked the syllabus and still didn’t see the answer. (TA panic will ensue).
(3) Want to guarantee an instantaneous response from your TA? GO TO OFFICE HOURS! (On which, see more below).
(4) Did I mention the syllabus?
Confused in Clemons writes: “I’ve heard about office hours — I didn’t think TAs had offices? What is this all about?”
That’s right, Clemons — we don’t. But, do you see that guy sitting in Alderman looking up expectantly every time someone comes in the door? He smiles as you walk past, hopefully, wistfully, like he had something meaningful to share … that is your TA. That is your TA during office hours. He is (probably) a really nice person and he is lonely, sitting there exposed, wishing that somebody, somewhere, had a question for him. He also knows what is important to do well in the class. So make him feel useful — and reap the rewards!
Tried-and-Trudie tip: invest time with your TA, and he will feel invested in you. So pull up a chair — it will absolutely help you do well in your class. And restore your TA’s faith in humanity.
Embarrassed on Elliewood writes: “I went out to a bar with my friends this weekend (don’t worry, Trudie, I’m 21) and we were a little drunk. I saw my TA there but I think she ignored me. Now I feel awkward. Should I say something when I see her in class?”
Nope. Pretend it didn’t happen. IT DID NOT HAPPEN. These non-teractions are a cost of living in a small town. If you see your TA at a bar, opt for something like benign neglect. Or work on the “slight-acknowledgment-and-walking-away” move (if we’re talking life hackers, this one should definitely be in the toolbox). Bottom line: TAs are like spiders. They are more afraid of you than you are of them. So keep a low profile and avoid buying shots for everyone. Trudie and her fellow TAs often gravitate downtown or to the Fry Spring area, so stick to the Corner and you should be fine. (Note to new TAs — when you get sick of pretending not to see your students on the Corner, find us veterans at the Whiskey Jar.)
Desperate in Dillard writes: “Trudie — I signed up for an 8 a.m. Friday section thinking it would show what a go-getter I am. Now I am hating life. How do I cope?”
DROP. THE. CLASS. If students don’t sign up for 8 a.m. classes, TAs don’t have to teach them!!! Save me, Desperate! Save me!!! Oh excuse me, I don’t know what came over me. Good for you for showing dedication! Trudie’s advice? Follow the great Will Ferrell’s words of wisdom from the much under-appreciated movie “Kicking and Screaming”: “Coffee is the lifeblood that fuels the dreams of champions.” Powerful advice, students. And maybe bring donuts?
Got a question? Need advice? Trudie the TA is on the case. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.