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Feb 22, 2006, 9:08 PM

Post #1 of 7 (4155 views)
TA and teaching experience Can't Post

I am waiting to hear from my MFA programs, and if accepted, would like to be a TA - but I have never taught in my life! I want to teach on the college level after I graduate...but am scared I won't be able to be a TA without any prior experience. Has anyone done this?

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Feb 22, 2006, 9:46 PM

Post #2 of 7 (4138 views)
Re: [mcountey] TA and teaching experience Can't Post

I was never a TA, but (aside from my teaching practicum, which was a course in fiction at the local recreation department) had never taught at all until I walked into the classroom as a composition instructor. It is much like swimming -- you jump in and either drown or learn to do it.

No, really, the main thing to remember is to plan in advance and gain their respect early. You know more than the students do (this is how I taught World Lit one semester, counting on their knowing even less than I did), and you have some idea of what you're trying to accomplish. That will pull you through.


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Feb 23, 2006, 8:44 AM

Post #3 of 7 (4108 views)
Re: [pongo] TA and teaching experience Can't Post

Thanks for the advice. I'm just concerned that the school will not let me be a TA (I need it to waive my tuition AND I want the teaching experience). Do schools have requirements of prior teaching experience when they hand out these TA positions to incoming MFA students?


Feb 23, 2006, 9:53 AM

Post #4 of 7 (4085 views)
Re: [mcountey] TA and teaching experience Can't Post

Most schools don't require previous teaching experience, though at programs where you'll be competing with others for assistantships, having some experience under your belt could be a plus. Also, while there may be some schools that just stick you in a classroom and have you get to it, many of the schools I've researched have training programs to support new TAs.

Ms. Mystery

Feb 23, 2006, 10:29 AM

Post #5 of 7 (4070 views)
Re: [kateb] TA and teaching experience Can't Post

I hardly think schools expect you to have teaching experience--from what I've heard, a lot of MFAers get their first teaching experiences as TAs. And besides, teaching is something that you learn as you go along. I was terrified the first day that I taught poetry to 8th graders, but I figured it out. In fact, it's probably pretty accurate to say that I'm STILL figuring it out right now.

Arthur J. Stewart

Feb 23, 2006, 6:49 PM

Post #6 of 7 (4023 views)
Re: [REliana] TA and teaching experience Can't Post

TAs start with no teaching experience, usually, then gain experience rapidly, especially if they have a good supervisior! By the second or third semester, you'll have about seen it all. Sure it is scary -- but that's part of the beauty of it! Just ensure that one of your goals is to become a good teacher, as you're doing the TA thing. It is a lot of work, but very rewarding.

Stephanie Kartalopoulos

Feb 23, 2006, 11:07 PM

Post #7 of 7 (3987 views)
Re: [REliana] TA and teaching experience Can't Post

When I was at UF, those grad students who were starting without teaching experience were given sections of one course to teach, as it had a VERY specific, designed, structured syllabus--and we had to have weekly meetings with a professor who taught in that area of writing/literature to go over lesson plans and grading and whatnot. Those grad students who were starting with teaching under their belts were given higher level writing & lit courses to teach that had more flexibility in the curriculum.

For the most part, the TA thing is a training ground. I had the experience of an MFA program that guaranteed the teaching to all grad students, so I never had to worry about the competing thing. Nonetheless--from what I have learned, a lot of schools that don't guarantee it to everyone decide who gets what more on merit (GRE scores, recommendations, sometimes preference/initial interest in admitting the candidate which can even come from what's in manuscript, recommendations, and personal statement) than prior experience.

At least--that's my understanding...


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