Classroom Pet Peeves: TA Edition

It’s been more than a year since I began my teaching assistant position. I’ve had the awesome opportunity to help freshmen in what some of them consider to be their first college course. I don’t pick favorites, but some students are naturally more pleasant to work with than than others.

What makes them more pleasant than their peers, you ask? Well usually they’re the types of people who would get “a pleasure to have in class!” stamped on their report cards in the third grade, and maybe a gold star sticker too. Most students fall into that category but unfortunately not everyone is as amicable.

I love my job as a TA. I really do, but the following are a few of my pet peeves while on the job that could land you on my shit list.*

1.) Students who call me “Ms.”

Is this a really big deal in the grand scheme of life? No. But the last time I checked, I’m a 22 year old senior. Senior, yes. Senior citizen, no. Call me by my first name, please and thank you. Onward.

2.) “I don’t ‘get’ your grading system.”

I understand, high school to college is a big transition. (No parents! No rules!) Maybe you’re homesick. Maybe you’ve never had to share a room with anyone before. Maybe you enjoyed spending eight hours straight in a high school and not having to walk outside to get to your next class. Believe me, I’ve been there. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

That being said, you are not in high school anymore. There is no such thing as entitlement at Penn State. A’s will not be handed to you. There’s a syllabus and the grading system is outlined there. Turn in an assignment late and you will be penalized. Deadlines are made for a reason. If I could, I’d take all the time in the world to do my homework, sleep adequately, and socialize with friends, but deadlines need to be met. Also, if everyone else in your section turned in the homework on time, it’s not fair to those students to let you have extra time to complete an assignment. Ya heard?

3.) No staples.

I’ve had some creative students turn in assignments bound by handmade staples made of paper (brilliant), dental flossed homework assignments, and looseleaf paper bound by colorful strands of yarn a la kindergarten art project. These options are pretty sweet, and  kind of shows you put in some extra effort into the assignment but here’s the bottom line: I go through a ton of papers. Bind them in some sort of way, staples preferred.

4.) Having to be the Mean Girl of the computer lab

I have lab hours weekly– my version of office hours — and sometimes the computer lab gets a bit crowded when deadlines are fast approaching. The computer lab where I hold my lab hours is not an ITS computer lab, so people aren’t allowed to meander in at their free will. Not that I’m yelling “YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US” at each of these individuals, but the technology in the computer lab is top notch, and it’s not worth the risk of an unauthorized person breaking something.

5.) “Is this good?”

By far my biggest pet peeve is when a student asks me this question. As a TA, it’s obviously my job to answer questions and help my students reach their full potential. If you’re having trouble and need guidance while working on the assignment, ask away. There are no such things as stupid questions in my book. But this question…I just can’t.

Let me give you some context: After a student has completed his/her assignment, asking me to look over the assignment and give them an OK before they submit it to ANGEL is like asking me if they’re going to get an A on the assignment. And then when I go through and grade the assignment to find errors, it makes me feel awful to take points off. You wouldn’t go up to a professor after completing an exam and ask them to look over it for any mistakes, right? So please, give me a break here.

*I realize that by putting a student in my shit list, while temporarily, may seem like I have them out of my favor. I’d like to make clear that I am an equal opportunity teaching assistant and take my job seriously. In no way do my pet peeves play a role in how I continue to help students. My students are angels.

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