Things Your TA Doesn’t Want You To Know

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. TC mark

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  • THINFAMOUS

    douche-y…and obvious.

  • cait

    You had me until the last paragraph. Where are you TAing that gives you the summers off and enough money for a Lolita loft and frivolous purchases? Jealous.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

      That’s what I was wondering…

    • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

      TAing in science is a completely different world.  Summer means the most time you’ll spend in lab/in the field. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=612928768 Samie Rose

    I love that the image for the post is a reference to Buffy. LOVE.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.n.knutson Sarah N. Knutson

      Since I never watched Buffy, that gorgeous man is now on Necessary Roughness and its 90% the reason why I watch. OMG.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=612928768 Samie Rose

        Riley Finn was one of the most annoying characters on Buffy but because he was beautiful, it was okay.

      • http://twitter.com/mung_beans Mung Beans

        IT WAS NEVER OKAY

  • Sarah

    My school doesn’t have TA’s. WHAT.

    • Lauren

      Does your school have a big grad program?  If not that is probably why, although undergrads can TA other undergrad courses if they get a 4.0 in the class at my school.  

  • Sophia

    Wait, clear something up for me: are grad students actually required to TA? I thought it was just a job they took voluntarily for pay. And I firmly believe that whether or not you’re a genius at math, or chemistry, or whatever your subject is, if you do not have some sort of talent at teaching others, you have no business being a TA. I am so, so frustrated with the ineptitude of my TA.

    • Sarah

      I’m looking at grad programs here and there. Yes, it’s a requirement for second, third, and sometimes 4th year grad students at most schools.

    • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

      Not if you’re fortunate enough to be a  paid research assistant like me :) I endured a year of teaching high school, so…I’ve suffered long enough.

    • Kennneth Gibson

      Woah you sound like a complete asshole right now. A completely ignorant asshole to boot. 

      • Anonymous

        Lies. The thing is, as this article just explained, your grade is in the hands of your TA. It sucks when you spend an entire semester trying to get help from someone who is incapable of giving it.

      • Anonymous

        Lies. The thing is, as this article just explained, your grade is in the hands of your TA. It sucks when you spend an entire semester trying to get help from someone who is incapable of giving it.

      • Kennneth Gibson

        Well, all I can say is that I always made a sincere effort to engage the class material and bring some informed commentary to my tutorials and I always had a fruitful relationship with my TAs and they even gave me good grades and everything. 

  • Guest

    There is no way in hell a TA could afford a Nolita loft.

  • http://www.twitter.com/mexifrida Frida

    I’ll keep this in mind next year

  • Anonymous

    This is completely perfect and true in every single way. 

  • Rachel

    You sound delightful.

  • http://twitter.com/Flarfer Dave P

    This owns.

  • http://twitter.com/no_cazador hunter ray

    The Met is like donation only right? For students? Tickets to the Met… that’s like a prank bribe.

    • http://twitter.com/no_cazador hunter ray

      also this made me fucking hate TAs and I’m going to be fucking paranoid on monday.

    • http://twitter.com/mung_beans Mung Beans

      the opera?

  • Guest

    “as they’re probably smarter than you. They’re getting a PhD., remember?”

    hahahhaha

  • Kaya

    “it also means they’ve literally heard that your grandma died about 300 times the past semester”Bahaha…guilty of this one.

  • Tim

    Being a TA myself, this made me laugh: “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”…I’m sorry to all of the undergrads out there, but…this is completely true. We’re not being mean–we just have to blow some stress off with the piles of research and grading to do, so we tend to laugh heartily and mock bad answers often. Don’t worry, I still offer much help and service to students with questions or concerns, because I never want to see a student who tries hard do poorly…we just develop sadistic tendencies when we’re stuck in that office (which the authour so eloquently described) all day. :)

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