Say, “Cheese”


I finished another teaching assistantship last semester quite happily. I look forward to having the extra time, which perhaps is our most precious resource. I have really enjoyed teaching my students and sharing with them the wonders and in some cases the dangers of the lab. Most of my interactions and relationships with students are positive. I have always wanted to see the students achieve their goals in the course and in their career. As TAs, we are obviously in a position to guide student through a course, but sometimes we may even point student in the direction of obtaining an internship or honors project in a research lab. I am delighted to see that past students are doing well in their new positions in research labs. Even better is to hear what they learned was useful! I find this dynamic between TAs and students interesting. After all, TAs are themselves students. I am sure there are those who may believe the “A” in TA ends six letters short of “assistant”. For those of you trekking on into the new semester here are my two cents about getting along with your TA and forging a positive constructive relationship, which will undoubtedly be of benefit.


This is one of the great tools in getting along with anybody. Students and educators are working together as a team. Now, I’m not saying students and TAs need to be BFFs or gather around a camp fire (constructed of burning quizzes and lab reports of course) and sing Kumbaya, but to work as a team they do need to get along. I don’t know of anyone that enjoys working surrounded by an air of melancholy. To be honest, I was far more willing and motivated to help the energetic student in a good mood than others. So smile, even if you have to force yourself to do so. If you weren’t in a chipper mood to begin with, you will be soon as the smile takes root.

Why is this really such a strong interpersonal communication tool? Just as many of the microbial “friends” that I work with, attitudes are contagious. Making the classroom an agreeable environment is a task for everyone in the room. I for one didn’t enjoy handing out poor grades, and I am sure the student didn’t enjoy receive the poor grade either. Discussions over grades are probably some of the most intense. I hold back on giving grades out until I am sure to be in a cheerful and energetic mood. I also instructed my students to attempt the same approach when asking questions concerning their grades. And you know what? It works. So there you have it the power of the smile simple, cheap, and always one on hand.

I have a few last notes for y’all:

1)    Yes, I am aware of how cheesy the above sounds; however, this does not make it less solid.

2)    Whether you are a TA or student never go to class hangry!

3)    Mmmm… Cheese

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