My experience as a TA IINF201

During the 2011 spring semester, I held the position as a teacher’s assistant for INF201, an introductory course to information technologies. Throughout this course, students learned to apply both HTML and JavaScript to fulfill class requirements. As a TA, my experience was to both a learning and imperative experience that I will never fail to remember. Even though there are some drawbacks to holding this position, the benefits overlook the negative experiences.

In the fall of 2011, I registered for INF201 with Professor Vivienne Sun for one of my required courses to complete for my major. Prior to enrolling in this course, I have never had any experience with coding or HTML in the past. With Professor Sun’s great knowledge of the course material, I was able to grasp introductory concepts very well and could apply them to my assignments in class. Even though some of the material had progressively gotten tougher throughout the course, I applied several hours of work a week to fully understand the material. In order to receive an A- in the course, I completed all the course assignments, one of which included to construct our own webpage.

Once fall semester came to an end, I started applying for internships in New York City, where I currently reside in. When I was called in for an interview for an IT position at The Luxury Review, (whom produce luxury events and job fairs) the CEO of the company asked me to show him some of my college work. I went ahead and presented him with my website I constructed in INF201. Immediately after he reviewed my website, he offered me a position to work with “The Dreamweaver Team,” to construct and modify our company website including other Intern work to give me a sense of what the company has to offer.

After I was accepted for the intern position, I was ecstatic and wanted to share the great news with professor Sun for her great knowledge with the course material that assisted me in receiving the position for the summer. Once I told professor Sun that I had received an internship, at the end of the summer she reached out to me and offered me the position to assist her in the 2011 spring semester. I was more than happy to accept the duty to assist Vivienne as she is a great professor.

INF201 is structured in a way where students are lectured on specific topics, concepts, and skills that will guide them through the assigned labs. Part of my role as a TA was to attend class lectures, learn and understand the material taught in class and use my knowledge to assist students with their assigned labs. Class lectures were usually held twice a week, and labs were assigned for Monday’s when Professor Sun had a class conflict during the class time. It was very imperative that I attended lab days where Vivienne left after fifteen minutes for her class. At first, I was very nervous and worried without professor Sun’s presence in the class, but after I got comfortable with the students in the class, assisting them was not a problem. I believe that the students benefit a lot from my presence in the class whenever they encountered problems or needed help with completing their labs.

One of my biggest challenges as a TA was assisting several students who were less skilled with the course material than others. Some students have had experience with coding prior to enrolling in this course, while some were just introduced to the course material and had never used coding before. The students who lacked experience always had the most trouble, and attempting to assist them was really challenging at times because I always avoided simply “showing” them what to do, and rather wanted them to understand what they’re doing. In this case, I put myself in the professor’s shoes and tried to teach them the misunderstood material as best as I could without giving them the actual codes, but rather explaining the skills and concepts to complete assignments.

Another challenge I encountered in this course was the fact that I had never learned JavaScript prior to holding the position as a TA. When professor Sun informed me that the second half of the class material was substituted for JavaScript, I became nervous and doubted myself being able to assist other students with material that I had no knowledge of. Every position that I have held, I strive to do my best at, doing whatever it takes to fulfill that role. Professor Sun made it easier for me, giving me hope and providing me with necessary tools to fully understand the material. Learning JavaScript coding was not as difficult as I had expected, but it required a lot of time and effort, which I was willing to apply to fulfill this position as the teacher’s assistant.

On Monday’s at 12:30 P.M., I would hold office hours at the University Library for two hours. Because this course was designed for students to complete the assignments in class, the attendances for my office hours were fairly low. Throughout the semester, I had held office hours every week and only a total of seven students attended. When students attended my office hours, I did my best to assist them with problems they encountered. Because some students were more experienced than others with the material learnt in class, they sometimes reached out to help the ones who were lacking knowledge of the course material. In particular, a student named Mark Nelson assisted me several times when a lot of students had problems with their labs. His generosity and selflessness was really helpful during the fall semester.

Another position I held as a TA was to record attendance ten times throughout the semester. Because the course meets three times a week, attendance was very critical when taken. One of my biggest concerns when recording attendance was students signing in other students that weren’t present in class. I had encountered a problem with one of the students signing in his classmate, after realizing that there was one less person in the class when I counted the sign-in sheet. At first, I didn’t know how to react to this situation so I informed Professor Sun about the possibility of a student signing in another student. Professor Sun and I both confronted the student who we suspected of signing in his classmate, but we had no sufficient evidence to prove that he had done so because the rest of the class had already left. After this incident, I notified the students as a precaution for the consequences of signing in other classmates when they are not present. I was also more cautious and aware of the attendance after this incident.

One of my favorite days as a TA for INF201 was when I was asked by Professor Sun to present my webpage that I constructed last semester. When I presented my project, I knew this was my opportunity to present the class with my experience as a student in INF201 during the spring semester of 2011. My webpage consisted of all the required elements and guidelines that were assigned for the final project. I presented my webpage with great confidence and explained to the class exactly what needs to be done to receive an A on their project. Many of the students had really interesting questions regarding my webpage, and some brainstormed ideas from my page as well. Shortly after my presentation, the students became really interested in the topics of their own pages and shared ideas, concepts and helped each other brainstorm ideas. The students were allowed to leave class after my presentation; all the students chose to stay and started working on their final projects. At this instance, I knew I had inspired many of the students to construct a professional looking webpage.

When the students presented their final projects during the last two classes of the semester, I was amazed at the work they had all put in and had all constructed wonderful customized pages. I believe that Professor Sun taught the course very well where students were able to utilize all the topics learnt in class, and applied them to their final projects a
s instructed. One of the students in the class presented a very interesting webpage that reminded me of my own when I constructed my final project in the spring. At the end of the last day, the student came up to me and thanked me for inspiring him to construct his webpage on a topic that interested him the most; baseball. The student built a wonderful webpage that shows he spent a lot of time and effort on the project, and was very passionate about his work. This was a very happy moment for me when I realized I inspired the student to construct his final project on a topic he was really passionate about; in essence, making the project a lot more fun and exciting for him to work on.

In conclusion, my time spent as holding the position of a TA has been a remarkable experience. The single most important thing I improved this semester about myself was my time management. As a senior undergrad enrolled in five courses and holding the position of a TA, I was able to complete my required coursework on time as well as being able to assist students with INF201. I believe that with the amount of workload and responsibilities I had this semester it has made me a better student because I always try to fulfill my duties to the best of my ability. It was a great pleasure working with Professor Sun, she is smart and a great professor to listen to. I believe that the students really benefit from her extensive knowledge about the course material, and that the students will be able to apply the skills they learnt in INF201 this semester in the future. 


Daniel Sebagh
Information Science, 2012


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