In Class

June 3, 2019 at 3:37 pm

Bringing YOU into the Classroom

Doctoral Student Regina Yoong, portrait outdoors

Doctoral Student Regina Yoong

By Teaching Assistants Regina Yoong Yui Jien and Lucero Gonzalez

As new Teaching Assistants, it’s easy to want to follow and emulate other, usually more experienced, professors’ teaching styles. As much as we can learn so much from our professors, especially the ones we admire, there comes a time to tailor your classroom with confidence and to bring your own personality into the classroom.

What we found is that students enjoy getting to know their very interesting, talented, and unique TAs, so don’t hold back. Here are some tips to help you along.

  • Stay True to Yourself (yes, that’s absolutely fine!)

Gonzalez, who teaches Writing and Rhetoric I to to a group of 20 first-year students at Ohio University shares her classroom experience: “I didn’t try to force a teaching persona that wasn’t true to who I am. Although I’m a soft-spoken introvert, I often felt that I had to increase my energy levels in order to keep my students engaged. However, I found that just because I wasn’t as ‘peppy’ or high energy as other instructors, it didn’t mean my students were any less interested in the course materials. I can still be an engaging and effective instructor without having to force certain personality traits.”

Putting up a false persona for 15 weeks is tiring, be kind to yourself and to your students, and don’t be afraid to let them see your unique personality traits. No two TAs are alike and students appreciate that special you.

  • Funny, Pun-ny, and Everything In Between

We all love to laugh, and our students are no exception. It’s easy to think that the classroom has to be a serious space, but students enjoy it when TAs introduce a light-heartedness to the classroom—a safe, comfortable space which they enjoy coming to and being a part of. You would be amazed how one funny joke or story “wakes the class up.” That’s why everyone enjoys the class clowns—they can be silly, but they sure bring smiles (and some eye-rolls) to the crowd. Yes, learning can be fun and welcoming!

  1. Teachers, Professors, Are Humans, Too

Once, my student was shocked by the fact I ate lunch. Somehow in his mind (bless his heart), he didn’t think that teachers ate or were remotely human beings. I know, that’s one extreme (but true) example. The truth is, students love to get to know their TAs. Explains how she lets her students know her on a personal level, Gonzalez says, “I often share my own journey and struggles I faced as an undergraduate…. The students began to view me as a person who could understand their own difficulties, instead of seeing me as a distant, authoritative figure.”

  • A Fresh Salad Bowl of Diversity

As a Malaysian-Chinese, Yoong initially found it intimidating to be an English instructor teaching Writing and Rhetoric I and Introduction to Poetry and Drama to a group of students at OHIO. “I would always try to blend in and learn up the Ohioan way of pronouncing things (Day-Un, instead of Day-Ton) and as many Ohioan idioms (playing possum?) to try to blend in.” Yet, what we found was that students are very curious about different cultures. Instead of seeing it as a daunting task, walk into the classroom with excitement and anticipation to share something from your own culture, upbringing, and neighborhood which spices up the class.

Don’t see the classroom as a big, melting pot, but see it as a fresh salad bowl—a splash of color filled with different kinds of vegetables. Variety of opinions and worldviews are important. The classroom is the platform to exchange ideas and to open ourselves to the vast possibilities in the world. Just like the salad bowl, they are all good for your students and you!

Yoong is a Ph.D. in Literature student and an English Teaching Assistant at OHIO. She has been teaching in Malaysia for five years before coming to OHIO on a Fulbright Teachers’ Exchange, after which, she began her Ph.D. program. She has a passion in teaching English and Literature and enjoys her classroom experiences with students.

Gonzalez is an M.A. student in Literary History and an English Teaching Assistant at OHIO. She is originally from Los Angeles and holds a B.A in English and Chicana/o Studies from UC Davis. When she is not teaching English, or reading, she enjoys going on walks and hanging out with her cat.




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