Teaching Assistant or Tough A-Giver?

I never knew of TAs (Teaching Assistants) until I came to UCLA. You know, graduate students who hold their own discussions in addition to the lecture, and most likely the person who will grade you throughout the course. It made sense. There’s no way a professor could handle a 300 student lecture on his own. And with the lack of funding, there’s no better way to offer your graduate students financial assistance than by making up a job for them, right? But what happens when this job comes at the detriment of other’s education?

I must say than in less than two years, I’ve been thankful to have met truly committed TAs who have been there to help their discussions as much as possible. But as in real life, there’s no good without the bad. I have come across two or three individuals who are so bitter about not getting an actual fellowship, that they take it on the students.

Student: “Hi, I noticed that you gave me an A- but didn’t quite comment as to why. Could you help me understand what I could do better for the next time?”
TA: “Your paper was great.”
Student: “I don’t follow.”
TA: You chose to go with X’s argument and I don’t personally agree with it. That’s why you didn’t get an A.”

Thankfully this exchange didn’t happen to me, but I know this TA in question. After all, I had to correct his flawed theories from time to time. This is the same TA who wouldn’t let me see my final to see what I did wrong in it.

I understand TAs though. Since we still haven’t heard about fellowships for my wife, she might end up becoming one of this miserable individuals. But I keep reminding her that she would have been an undergraduate once by the time she’s grading papers. I mean, both my wife and I understand how competitive it is to get into graduate and professional schools. Why ruin someone’s chances because of a personal bias?

I personally gave this TA a very sincere and detailed evaluation, including how he was inadequately prepared to aid us with the material he was supposed to be in charged of. Yet, he doesn’t seem to be listening. My classmate will be taking this matter to the supervising professor next week and I sure hope he does something about it.

-Mrs. This One.

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