What Is It Like To Be A Teacher's Assistant?

Want to become an assistant, but still have some doubts. Valeria Lizunova will tell you everything you wanted to know.

What Is It Like To Be A Teacher's Assistant?

Assistance comes with some perks – you either get “credits” or money. But is it worth the trouble? We talked to two HSE students who are currently working as teachers’ assistants to find that out.

Why did you decide to become an assistant?

Stacy: Partly because I did a joint research within the framework of the project on the subject with the teacher, the assistant of whom I later became. Besides, I can recall just how much my classmates and I suffered while dealing with our homework in that time when there were no assistants, and nobody could explain a thing. That’s why I’ve decided that this universal injustice just had to be eliminated.

Angelina: I really liked my language teacher and her attitude towards the educational process. Moreover, it seemed like a great opportunity for me to build upon what has already been learned.

In your opinion, how well do you need to understand the chosen subject?

Stacy: I believe, you may either possess very deep profound knowledge of the subject and explain to the students everything in details, helping them to understand an essence of the discipline, or just have your “10” (the mark) on that subject and then share some lifehacks. Such tips considerably simplify the life of most students. Actually, the main thing is to be able to convey material correctly and easily at your own level and pace.

Angelina: I think, it depends on the requirements of a particular teacher, but in most cases (in mine as well), the assistance relates to the preparation of material or tacks’ checking, which means you must have a good understanding of the subject.

What is the procedure of becoming an assistant? Is it a difficult process?

Stacy: Becoming an assistant is easy. You need to coordinate that with the teacher and, as a rule, get a mark of 8-10 on this subject.

Angelina: The process is not that difficult. You just need to reason with the teacher, then wait for confirmation from the study office and fill out the required forms.

Was there any competition for the position?

Stacy: There was no competition. I became an assistant in last year, and at that time the position was just introduced (for that particular subject). This year there were more people wishing to take the place, but I had some privileges since I already had the experience.

Angelina: I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think there was any. Quite possible, that the teacher hired several assistants.

What are your responsibilities as an assistant now?

Stacy: This year I have much more duties. I have to check all homework, tests, essays and to conduct weekly consultations and sometimes take teacher’s place.

Angelina: It’s mainly about research and preparation of tasks for different types of work (listening, reading, writing, grammar).

In your opinion, what difficulties might be out there for a student who want to take this position?

Stacy: The main difficulty is a catastrophic lack of time to check students’ homework and other elements of monitoring.

Angelina: I don’t think that serious complications may arise. Every problem can be solved with the help of the teacher or on your own. Still I know that some teachers may require such a large amount of work from assistants that students do not have time to complete all the duties.

Why and why not to become an assistant (from your personal experience)?

Stacy: This job is quite interesting; it allows you not to lose the knowledge acquired during the course. It is also useful for those who want to become a teacher in the future. Still you need to be ready to consult at least 30 students, and not only at the university, but also in your personal time, since there are always some questions.

Angelina: I cannot think of the reasons that may hold you back from becoming an assistant, especially if you like the subject and the teacher. In that case, assistance might become a very interesting and useful experience, that would help you to deepen your knowledge on studied course.

Have you discovered anything new thanks to that opportunity?

Stacy: Definitely. On the one hand, after speaking for 3 hours in a row, I realized just how exhausting lectures may be for teachers (and for their voice!). On the other hand, before this experience I never thought I could be a good teacher, but now it seems like it’s worth trying.

Angelina: Since my responsibilities in the first place include the search and preparation of the tasks, I am also involved in learning process, and this is quite useful for practicing the language. Apart from the fact that I weekly learn new vocabulary, I also get the opportunity to look at the educational process from a different perspective.

Text by
Valeria Lizunova