Yesterday, I made my 2-hour, 50-minute drive (thanks, Boston traffic!) up to New Hampshire for the class in which I’m a teaching assistant this semester. The students are writing a research paper, and the professor had scheduled a writing workshop.
What I Expected
Based on my previous–albeit limited–experience, I expected students to work quietly on their papers. I expected a few questions, but most of them along the lines that only the professor could answer as they pertained to a grade, due date questions, etc.
I expected that I would spend the hour and fifteen minutes observing the students and making note of questions they asked the professor. I expected to be impressed by the students’ work ethic, especially as it’s an honors class.
What Actually Happened
I was pleased to have my expectations surpassed. The students did ask questions, and plenty of them. It was fantastic. The professor, my co-TA, and I were all busy the entire 75-minute class period. Their questions largely centered on using headings in APA-style research papers, but often discussions about this led to thinking about the organization of the paper, and making sense the logic flowed smoothly from one heading to the next.
I believe the students got a lot of work done, but in my eyes, the best part was the level of conversation. I’m constantly impressed by these students, their passion for their topics (self-chosen within the realm of the course theme), and as I expected, I was impressed with their work ethic.
How I’ll Teach
Next semester, my students will be required to write three essays. I think–if I can fit it in–I will give them a workshop day for each essay so they can get first drafts hammered out and conference with me if they have questions.
I haven’t developed my course calendar yet–only my syllabus–but as I want to emphasize the process side of writing, I think it’s worth giving them the class time to work on their papers, with me in the room. If I can’t arrange for workshops for each of those essays, I will definitely do it for the research essay.