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Shiri Huber

Class Observations
I observed Julias English 101 class with professor Doug Kern. In my first
moments of entering the classroom, I immediately noticed that Julia was one of the
first in the room, and sat in a chair in the front. As I was walking in, Julia was having
a conversation with students and asking them about their weekend. Both of these
things do not happen in my English 101 classroom, partially because I take a less
active role as a TA in my English class, but also because I usually walk in a little late
and thus do not give myself the opportunity to have conversations. In my
classroom, I sit in a desk in the front row but I only go to the front of the room when
I am giving a lesson plan. I think this works for me and my professor, because my
professor has her own schedule and way of teaching the class and Im not sure if
she has considered arranging her time so that the TAs have more of an instructing
role. I would, however, like to follow Julias lead in trying to establish more of a
connection with the studentsalthough I do have some opportunities to do so, I
never really speak to students as a peer without the pressures of also trying to
teach them something. Therefore, I should probably be on time to class (or early).
Doug Kern is much more informal than my English 101 professor, eating an
apple and sitting to the side while Julia began to introduce an activity. Julia and Prof.
Kern have an informal and collaborative relationship, discussing the activity while
students were busy and working together in the front of the classroom. It seemed
like Julia and Prof. Kern built off of each other, with Prof. Kern sometimes turning to
Julia and asked her clarifying questions, showing that he gives his TAs quite a bit of
authority and responsibility. He makes an intentional effort to make the class itself
fairly informal as well, trying to inspire an air of conversation by asking the class
many questions and inviting feedback. The activity that Julia lead also appeared to
inspire discussion and also creativity by putting students into groups and having
them invent situations that matched different types of fallacies. My class has a
similar type of group work, but it usually takes up much less time during the class
period. During the activity, Julia played a very active role, answering questions with
the professor and calling on students. In my class, me and my professor switch off
when Im teaching a lesson plan, my professor sits down, and vice versa. But in Prof.
Kern and Julias class, it seemed like the two usually worked together and shared
authority of the class. Only after the activity was over did Prof. Kern fully take over
the class and lecture a little bit about the next assignment.
The biggest takeaway I had from my observation was the level of
engagement Julia had with the students and with the professor. I take a relatively
passive role within class, sometimes sitting in my desk for the entire class without
getting up. On those days, I try to answer at least one of my professors questions
or chime in with some sort of advice. The times when I participate most are when
the professor has me check the students rough drafts, and I walk around and
answer every students questions, or I do the same thing on peer review days.
Otherwise, I mostly see students outside of class in office hours. Julia takes a much
more active role in the class, partially because of how the professor wants the class
to work, but also partially on her own accord. By talking to students before class,
building off of what Prof. Kern says during class, and walking around while the
students are working, Julia seems just like another teacher in the classroom.
Although I love the professor I teach for and know that her teaching style is very
different than Prof. Kerns, I think that I could potentially suggest some other ways
that her TAs could take active roles in the classroom so that we have more work and
she has less work, in a good way. Some aspects of Julias TA role that I could
translate into my TA role include teaching the class more, having my professor allow
me to lead activities, and taking initiative to answer students questions myself.
Overall, I found that observing Julias time in Prof. Kerns class was inspiring and
pushed the boundaries of the role I thought TAs had in the classroom.