TEACHING ASS IS TANTS
sometimes go unobserved despite
guidelines that strongly encourage
evaluations by faculty.
Donna Bailey and
Lynne DeGitz of the
for Teaching and
Learning help gradu-
ate students take a
realistic approach to
preparing to teach.
A struggle to juggle
When Stephen Moore decided
to pursue a doctorate in political
theory, he knew life as a grad stu-
dent would be tough. Having
completed a master's at Portland
State University, he was well-
versed in the rigors of higher aca-
demic pursuit. However, he hadn't
tried juggling the roles ofbeing
both teacher and student at once.
May /Jun e 2002
"It's really a struggle," said the
third-year doctoral student.
Moore has spent three years
taking courses and comprehensive
exams, plus trying to pinpoint his
dissertation topic. Last fall, he
taught his first-ever solo class for
the political science department,
becoming what the University
dubs a "teaching fellow" with pri-
mary responsibility for teaching
and grading a course. Due to a
department emergency, he was
selected to teach the course in
late summer and had three or
four weeks to prepare.
That cut into his normal sum-
mer routine, which involves
working odd jobs - even writing
a history for a local church - to
pay his bills. He says he'd be bet-
ter served by writing papers for
publication and doing research,
but his financial needs don't allow
for those scholarly pursuits.
"You're trying to make some
money so you can live," he said.
"But on top ofthat ... you want
to become a better teacher."
Moore isn't alone. Teaching
assistants in every department say
it's a challenge to balance their
dual roles. One minute they are
teachers with a sense ofinde-
pendence and command of the
classroom; the next, they are stu-
dents striving to finish their
degrees and to make themselves
When grad students are in the
teacher mode, one of the biggest
battles is maintaining authority.
Teaching assistants tend to con-
nect easily with their students,
even look like their students, and
undergraduates occasionally take
advantage of the familiarity.
"Sometimes your students
identify with you too much as a
person and friend and don't treat
you the same as they would a
normal professor," said Kelly
Simontacchi, who is completing
her doctoral degree in biological
psychology this spring."Just
because I'm young doesn't mean
it's acceptable to turn in your
papers a week late or bombard
me about a bad grade in a way
you wouldn't do with a [full] pro-
Simontacchi finds tinle man-
agement to be her biggest issue.
She says she constantly feels torn
between her research, which she
needs to appease future employ-
ers, and her teaching, for which
she has a passion. To cope, she
sticks to a rigid schedule. She
teaches only in the fall and dedi-
cates the spring to research. When
teaching, she spends mornings
preparing for that day's instruction
and afternoons in the lab analyz-
ing data. Weekends are used to
develop lectures and grading.