Saturday, May 1, 2010

TA Appreciation Day

No doubt everyone's semester is in its final week or so. So one question remains.

Also: I hereby declare the first Friday of May TA Appreciation Day. Buy your TA a six pack and a bag of chips. Or something.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

How about health insurance? Or a living wage?

Anonymous said...

My favorite professor from grad school took us out for a really nice Indian dinner. (Same guy got me a job bar tending to help make it nearer to that living wage.) Thanks!

My least favorite professor to TA for made us have lunch with him every Wednesday at our expense at this crappy bagel place while he talked at us about Milton Friedman or the good old days when Hugh Hefner's Playboy philosophy was one of the assigned readings. On the last Saturday before grades were due, he his 3 TAs meet for an all day event where we fit our students into a common curve. We had to rank our students to determined who got As, Bs, Cs, etc... How do you rank students graded by different TAs who didn't have a common grading criteria? No idea. You rank them by the highest score but the inter-TA scores were meaningless. Our year, being a really, really hot swimmer correlated really well with getting an A because that correlated with getting perfect marks from the scuzzy TA that wore a beret. Anyway, this bullshit exercise took all day. We broke for lunch so we could buy ourselves crappy bagels and listen to the prof. yammer on about Milton Friedman.

PA said...

Now that you mention it, not one of the profs I TA'd for as a graduate studentr so much as bought me a cup of coffee. Actually, one did offer to provide pizza at a final grading meeting, but she had treated us so badly during the semester, we begged off in favour of a shorter and food-free meeting.

Anonymous said...

Although most of my TA experiences were good, I'll 2nd the vote for health insurance or a living wage.

Having to find part-time jobs and take out student loans just to pay for food and rent kinda sucked. Selling blood for bar cash is just a tad weird. Not being able to go to a doctor when sick, or not being able to afford monthly medication also kinda sucked. And forget regular check-ups with the eye doc or dentist.

To the wish list I would add office space and teaching supplies. You don't have to get me a laptop, 5.1 surround sound, or fill my bookshelves like you do the full time faculty. But a place to work, hold office hours, and meet with other pre-professionals would be nice.

David W... said...

ha ha.

No TAs here in the UK: I have to do all my own marking - boo hoo... etc.. and the Tories are about to win the election and screw the Universities (except ones the went to) in all kinds of horrible ways... etc....

Anonymous said...

Take matters into your own hand. Instead of praying and hoping for some appreciation from the professor, start soliciting bribes from your students.

Anonymous said...

In lieu of a six pack, simply provide quality and quantity of work commensurate with the TA wage.
Use the TT profs in your department as a guide - take how much time and effort they spend on average on teaching, and then take their median salary. If your take home pay is 1/5 as much as that figure, then work 1/5 as much (on teaching!), and provide 1/5 the quality (of teaching!).
That way, schools get what they pay for. If it's the market-system we're moving toward, then give 'em a taste of market realities.
And I'd recommend unionizing as well. The closer we get to a market-model for school and departmental organizational principles, the more protection TA's will need, since they're the one's that contractually can get squeezed. (TT professors are obviously legally protected).

Anonymous said...

Luckily, anonymous 4:38 is already 1/5 as intelligent as the average TT prof.

Anonymous said...

No TAs here in the UK...David what are you talking about? In my department all teaching of first and second year undergraduates is performed entirely by TAs.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe they won't give you an office if you are TAing!

The health insurance thing is one reason unionization is not so bad for TAs or contingent faculty or, really any faculty (see Kings college, et al). I don't get why faculty don't organize ( and by "organize" I don't mean online petition drives)

We will all hang together or we will all hang seperately.

David W... said...

6:02 - my apologies - I forgot that some places have moved that way... - we just get the lecturing staff to do it all....

Is the UK move to TAs as bad as most seem to feel? Or a genuine bit of progress towards an academic career path?

Jed said...

So a guy offers you a beer, and you ask him for justice instead? wtf? Anyway, justice won't come from your profs, even the ones who want to help. So take their beer, and take the campaign where it's likely to do some good.

Speaking of beer: I was a grad student in an awful seminar about fifteen years ago. The prof tried, but she was fighting a losing battle. She was a bit of a basket case -- tenure track, but not really getting encouraging signs from the other profs. And few of the grad students were interested in the seminar topic (required course). Somehow, the prof thought that extra readings would cure the slackers. Well, bad idea. Things just got worse. Last day of class, the prof comes in with course evaluations and a 24-pack of beer. (There were eight of us, so not a bad deal.) We looked at her, she looked at us, then she said: "I won't say it was fun." She dropped the evals and beer on the table and left.

John Bender said...

You know what I got for T.A. Appreciation Day? I got a carton of cigarettes. The old prof grabbed me and said, "Hey, smoke up Johnny." Alright? So go home and cry to your Daddy. Don't cry here, okay?

Anonymous said...

Jeez--Spiros just means that we should express appreciation--not cure all socio-academic ills (as if you could anyway). You can't give a homeless person a home, but you can throw enough into a hat so she can get a meal--or a self-medicating drink. I guess any quality of mercy is somewhat strained these days by overwhelming layers of injustice.

But Anon 4:08--that is some story! One query: was that a Leiterific institution? Are there assessment tools in grad schools that we had taken insufficient attention of?

Anonymous said...

What the hell is up with the horror stories? I don't make a hell of a lot of money, but I can live in college-student-level comfort. I have a (shared) office, complete with office supplies. I have health insurance. We're neither unionized nor Leiteriffic. Is that really so unusual?

Anonymous said...

I share my "office" with every other grad student in the department. Sometimes undergrads, too. Le sigh.

Anonymous said...

8:36:
Your irrelevant analogy aside, asking professors to help change the poor treatment of TAs is not, in fact, either impossible or an effort at solving all socio-economic ills. Though they often claim to have no authority to foster change, that's not the case. In a school where faculty are unionized, the faculty could push for inclusion of TAs (as well as non-tenure-track faculty). Where I went to grad school, grad students were carried on the health insurance policy, for instance. Faculty who are part of a collective bargaining agreement can fight to include (some, if not all) changes to the current system as it exists at most institutions. They could also wield the not-inconsiderable power of their individual department funding. I know of one school where faculty get annually $4,000 in research money (to be spent on travel and other expenses) but provide no such money for grad students. The department faculty could decide to move some of that money into funding grad students to attend conferences, for instance, in the name of professional development.

We faculty like to pat ourselves on the back when we toss a few dollars into the hats of our grad students, and pretend like we are doing them a favor. I mean, we got ours, right?

English Jerk said...

Also, 8:36, you could in fact give the homeless guy a home, namely your own. You just don't.

Anonymous said...

http://tinyurl.com/3a5smln

Anonymous said...

I guess my case is rare. I'm a full prof at a decent PhD program, and the grad students are all fully funded & insured. I'm buying a few six packs and some bags of chips for Friday.

Anonymous said...

If this is the reason that a prof is taking me and her other TAs to lunch on Friday, thanks!

Spiros said...

4:13: you're welcome.

CTS said...

So, my perspective is dated, by a lot, but I remember making VERY little in money for being a TA, yet having insurance through the grad school. Is this no longer the norm?

For what it's worth, I also remember my first two years as a 'TA': filing old articles for my 1st prof and baby-sitting for the next one. At least (it seems) you all are being used in a way that bears some relevance to your own plans.