The TA is, in some ways, the best gig going at Cornell. You can either get paid or earn the easiest A you’ll ever get at Cornell (yes, less effort than Oceans). Basically all you have to do is show up to class, grade a few prelims and, if you’re unlucky, hold office hours. Even so, there are some things that every TA will experience that will truly make you question your commitment to the job.
When the professor makes a big changes from last year
Most of the time, professors don’t make changes to their curriculum from year to year, meaning that the courses we TA are pretty identical to the ones we took. But when a professor adds a new unit or a new textbook or the field decides to advance itself (the nerve!), we TAs have to pay the price. Now we not only have to actually pay attention to what’s going on, but when people invariably ask us questions about said change, we will have no idea how to respond. This is doubly bad when the change involves the incorporation of any new technologies that will surely run into lots and lots of issues.
When people ask questions they really should know the answer to and you get a little scared for them.
People say there is no such thing as dumb question. However, when it’s the third week of class and people are still asking what the room number is or what time class meets, it’s worrisome.
When people ask hyper specific questions that you have absolutely no idea about and that you’re sure fairly sure the professor might not even know.
Just remember that TAs are people who took the class and did reasonably well. We didn’t memorize every single lecture slide and reading.
When people assume you have far more power than you actually do.
I know you think it is ridiculous that we have both a final paper and final exam and I will happily listen to your complaints; just know that I can’t actually do anything about them.
When people ask you if something will be on the test.
Trust us, we see the test when you see the test. But yes, if it’s in big, bold letters on the slides, there’s a 9/10 chance it’s on the prelim.
When people ask you if you really need to do the reading
All I have to say is that I did the reading and look where it got me. While I’m sure there are plenty of kids who took the class and never even bought the book, they are surely not the ones who will be grading your exam.
When people ask you what the homework is
You got a syllabus on the first day of class; if you lost it, it’s on Blackboard. You asking me what the homework is just tells me you that you are too lazy to check anyone of these sources. Also, considering we don’t have to complete assignments anymore, the due dates are no longer on our radar.
When students ask you to look over their homework during non-office hours.
Being a TA is not a full time job. We have other work to do, just like you, and we appreciate that you let us do it without harassing us to check your problem set.