TAing is not a choice, it’s an obligation. The reason they’re at your university is to manically research the sexual deviancy of an obscure 17th century genre painter. They’re generally not interested in mentoring and imparting their knowledge onto young university undergrads. If TAs actually enjoyed teaching, they would’ve become a high school teacher or taken that post at Mount Holyoke.
I know you sit in class and think about what that cute professor with his unkempt hair and rumpled tweed sport coat would be like in bed. He knows so much and that arrogance mixed with intellectual self-consciousness is totally dreamy. The only difference between you and your TA is that they probably aren’t wondering if the professor is a good lay. They already know. Your TA spends hours of close one-on-one time with your professor, so it’s no surprise that it often leads to very intimate relationships. Besides, it’s a lot more permissible to sleep with your grad student in the eyes of the administration.
TAs are only human; they can be just as petty and judgmental as the rest of us. They hate your booty shorts with Cornell plastered across your ass and UGG boots just as much as everyone else does. They don’t care if you need above a 3.7 GPA for law school. If you pester them enough, they might even take pleasure in adding that minus to your A. On the other hand, I’ve never heard of a box of chocolates, grande latte or tickets to the Met ever hurting a student’s grade.
It’s always difficult to make it to lecture after the night you had. Sitting, sleeping, taking notes, it’s rough. But usually if you make it in the door and manage to find the sign-in sheet, you’re fine to just drift in and out of consciousness. If you think you feel like crap in your 8 a.m. class, your TA feels even worse. Even though they probably just spent their night sharing a bottle of wine with their significant other instead of doing keg stands and beer bongs, they also don’t have your 19-year-old metabolism. That single bottle of wine has left them with a migraine the size of your textbook and dry heaves to match. Bottom line, they’re older and less resilient… they feel your pain tenfold.
Just because your TAs are in a position of power doesn’t mean that they’re benevolent. Snickering at and mocking students is actually one of the perks of the job. When you see a group of TAs in the coffee shop sharing a hearty laugh, it’s not because someone cracked a particularly funny joke about Hegelian historicism, they’re probably just reading highlights from your take home midterm, “haha, he wrote that Scottish Calvinism was a reaction to Spanish oppression in the Netherlands, bahahah.”
While the professor is the one who stands up and talks at you for the hour and a half lecture, that’s about all they do. It’s the TA that makes up and grades your exams. TAs would never want you to know this fact because that would mean they would have to listen to your whining about how you didn’t show this exact slide in class even though it was question #5 on the ID portion of the test. The truth is, the fate of your GPA completely rests in the hands of your TA – professors really are as absent-minded as they look.
Yes they’re older than you, but it wasn’t that long ago since they were in your undergrad position. The implications of this fact are two fold: while it might make them a little more understanding when you come to ask for an extension because you just broke up with your girlfriend, boyfriend etc., it also means they’ve literally heard that your grandma died about 300 times the past semester. In general, if you don’t have time to do your work, your TA would appreciate you putting a little more effort and creativity into your excuses, especially when it comes at the expense of your little ol’ granny.
TAs loathe office hours more than their second year orals because it forces them to sit in a stuffy communal office and patiently wait two hours while a smattering of confused students may or may not come. There is nothing worse than knowing that you’ve wasted your day waiting for people who will never show up, and if they do, it’s usually to see if they can manipulate the TA into giving out the answers to the upcoming midterm. TAs find it completely insulting when students try to trick them. Keep in mind your chances of pulling a fast one on your TA are slim as they’re probably smarter than you. They’re getting a PhD., remember?
Just because they are TAing that Crisis of Consciousness Comp Lit class doesn’t mean they know anything about Rilke’s early works or have ever read a poem from Stevens’ Opus Posthumous. TAs have a heavy course load of their own and the reading for your class falls pretty low on their to-do list. Don’t be surprised when they answer your question with a question. It’s all very subjective.
Contrary to popular belief, TAs are not undersexed bitter overgrown nerds. Well, actually they mostly are, but they get the last laugh because they’re actually being paid to be a student. College never ends for them. They get to wake up late, study something they love and still get summers off. TAs don’t hate their undergrad students, in fact they sort of love you because they know you’re paying for their little Nolita loft and vintage leather briefcase with your 40k plus tuition.