triage, money, teaching - what is important

S. Boomer sarai at
Wed Sep 3 17:42:45 EST 1997

Hi Cindy,
        It is not that we don't make students teach - it is that a shift
was made to make them teach in their second year where, before, they
taught in their first year.  Making the shift required some extra hours
and hands (I actually filled a couple void spots during the transition
year for experience).  
	For a variety of reasons, I think the shift was excellent given
the research/choice demands of the first year.  I think you bring up an
excellent point as well regarding foreign/non-English speaking TAs.  We
have wrestled as a dept. more and more with students who simply do not
have the command of the language to even be allowed to teach (such
students are given proficiency ESL exams and if they don't pass them, they
have to wait to teach).  Teaching is required for the degree as well and
so, obviously passing language exams is a priority.  Our dept. has
actually suffered interesting differential triage because of the language
problem - which would be an interesting topic of discussion -
unforunately, students have not been cut until a year after their
qualifying exams (given extra time to retake ESLs) - which certainly
raises questions, in my mind, about the "warm body at the bench" problem.  
	Anyway - I would not say that we have a luxury in terms of not
making first years teach.  We made a decision to require it in the second
year as opposed to the first year.  I recommend this decision to any dept.
who is struggling with these kinds of issues - whether it is the
non-proficient forgeign student or the completely whacked-out-stressed
American... the first year should be research/rotation and basic
coursework only (and English mastery, if necessary).


On Wed, 3 Sep 1997, C.J. Fuller wrote:

> Sarah-I wish our dept had the luxury of allowing first year grad students
> to not be TA's.  Unfortunately, we're a small department by nutrition
> standards.  This rush into teaching is particularly wrenching for
> international students who are not proficient in English.  It's a bad deal
> for the undergrads who may not comprehend the TA, and it's also bad for
> the grad student.  In Asian countries, teaching at the college/university
> level is very prestigious.  They don't understand why these kids don't
> accord them even a modicum of respect.
> Cindy
> -- 
> C.J. Fuller
> <mailto:cjfuller at>
> <mailto:cjfuller at>

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