What life as Graduate Teaching Assistant really is like
Start writing a post
Student Life

5 Things I Learned While Being A Graduate Teaching Assistant in the US

The truth about who teaches and who learns in an international classroom.

5 Things I Learned While Being A Graduate Teaching Assistant in the US
Kathrin Kasperlik

You probably think that in a classroom it's only the students who learn and the instructor who teaches. There's nothing more wrong than that. Teaching German at Illinois State University for a year made me realize how much my students actually taught me – whether they knew it or not.

A year ago I left Germany and set off to Bloomington-Normal, IL, where I worked as Graduate Teaching Assistant teaching German to American students. I never properly worked as a teacher. I never had my own class of students for whom I had full responsibility. I have never been in the United States of America. And that's how my journey began; a journey full of daily challenges and struggles, funny mistakes and beautiful moments in a foreign country.

1. Be self-confident

Let's be clear: no student will ever respect an instructor who does not seem self-confident. If you show a lack of confidence, that bundle of young adults will question not only your authority but also your knowledge. I very clearly remember those last few moments before my first lesson. I remember how my hands were shaking, how my heart was racing and I still remember the nervous runs to the restroom. Oh yes I was scared, but I knew I couldn't admit any of it and simulate exactly the opposite if I wanted to win their attention. Fake it till you make it!

Maybe it isn't easy in the beginning but eventually it'll become easier, I promise! Dealing with your insecurities will make you strong over time up until being able to deal with unexpected situations or funny mistakes. I'll never forget how I panicked during my first class because I couldn't turn on the boom box. Turned out the cable wasn't plugged into the box! Time taught me to stay relaxed and self-confident even in situations like these and look for a solution.

2. Be an authority

Standing in front of a bunch of students every day definitely teaches you authority. Once you'll get over the self-confidence part you realize that authority is indispensable for your students to take you seriously and execute your requests and exercises. The work with students will teach you attitude and presence in the classroom, and foremost responsibility. Working as a teacher is a responsible job, as your authority decides whether your students will effectively learn something or whether they paid their class for nothing.

3. Be a motivation

Everybody knows it: if there is lack of motivation, there is no learning process. It's so much easier to sit down and study for a topic that we're really interested in or that actually inspires us than to do homework for a class we're absolutely not interested in. I was teaching German language, and guess what, there were not a lot of students who were motivated. In that case you have no choice, you have to learn how to be a motivator. Motivation is the key to engagement and commitment and thus to learning and successful participation in your classroom.

4. Be an entertainer

And what better way is there to motivate your students than being an entertainer and making your lessons as fun as possible? And let me tell you: it works! Some teachers maybe motivate their students with long preaches or threats. I'm not that kind of person, however. Instead, my students taught me the more fun there was during our classes, the more motivated they were to participate and showed way better results!

5. Cultural differences

Well, and then there is the international part. I'll be infinitely grateful to my wonderful students for teaching me so much about their country, about their study and work ethic, about their dress code at university, about their education system, their sports and their connections to the military. They taught me so much more than I have ever expected and they are the reason I had such an incredible stay in the U.S. Thank you so much dear students. I hope you had some fun learning German, and never forget that you taught me just as much as I taught you!

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
New Year Resolutions

It's 2024! You drank champagne, you wore funny glasses, and you watched the ball drop as you sang the night away with your best friends and family. What comes next you may ask? Sadly you will have to return to the real world full of work and school and paying bills. "Ah! But I have my New Year's Resolutions!"- you may say. But most of them are 100% complete cliches that you won't hold on to. Here is a list of those things you hear all around the world.

Keep Reading...Show less

The Ultimate Birthday: Unveiling the Perfect Day to Celebrate!

Let's be real, the day your birthday falls on could really make or break it.

​different color birthday candles on a cake
Blacksburg Children's Museum

You heard it here first: birthdays in college are some of the best days of your four years. For one day annually, you get to forget about your identity as a stressed, broke, and overworked student, and take the time to celebrate. You can throw your responsibilities for a day, use your one skip in that class you hate, receive kind cards and gifts from loved ones and just enjoy yourself.

Keep Reading...Show less

Unleash Inspiration: 15 Relatable Disney Lyrics!

Leave it to Disney to write lyrics that kids of all ages can relate to.

The 15 most inspiring Disney songs

Disney songs are some of the most relatable and inspiring songs not only because of the lovable characters who sing them, but also because of their well-written song lyrics. While some lyrics make more sense with knowledge of the movie's story line that they were written for, other Disney lyrics are very relatable and inspiring for any listener.

Keep Reading...Show less

The Six Most Iconic Pitbull Lyrics Of All Time

Mr. Worldwide just wants to see you succeed.

a photo of artist Pitbull

It is no secret that Pitbull is a gifted artist, but many fail to remember that he can be a source of great inspiration as well. The following is a list of iconic Pitbull lyrics that we know and love. Read on to feel empowered — if you think you can handle it.

Keep Reading...Show less

11 Essential Expectations for Becoming the Ultimate Cheermeister

Mastering Festive Expectations: Tips to Shine as Your Holiday Cheermeister

Crazy for Christmas

So you’ve elected yourself as this year's Holiday Cheermeister, there’s no shame in that. The holidays are your pride and joy, and you've taken on the responsibility to get everyone in the spirit. With only one week until Christmas, here are some things we expect from you, Cheermeister.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments