At many institutions being a teaching assistant is considered the drudge work of grad students. Not so at Thayer, where students—undergraduate as well as graduate—eagerly commit at least 12 hours a week to TA duties in a variety of classes. In the following, seven TAs, including Norwich Solar Technologies’ Waad Kahouli, tell us what they put into the job—and what they get out of it.
BY KATHRYN LAPIERRE
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN SHERMAN
Waad Kahouli, Dual Degree ’13 Th’16
ENGG 199: Aircraft Design
Professor: Brenden Epps
Waad is an R&D Engineer at Norwich Solar Technologies
I give Professor Epps feedback about what the students are doing and what kind of questions they have. When I prepare lectures, we go over goals and whatever he expects us to deliver.
Best Part: Helping someone learn the material is very rewarding to me. Seeing students go from being introduced to the material, being confused, struggling to get a hold of things, to arriving at a point where they can actually have a smooth display of what they know and of problem-solving skills that are very well structured is an amazing process. I also enjoy going through how people think and organize their ideas. That makes me more conscious of the way that I organize and deliver my ideas.
Hardest Part: It’s challenging to not have an answer for a question that a student expects you to have. Sometimes you discover that you actually don’t understand it any more than they do. At the same time, it pushes you to go back again and try to understand it. Sometimes the student and I will walk through the problem together, and then we both learn something new.
Lessons Learned: As a TA you get an inside view of what it takes to make a course successful, the work that goes into putting a course together and making sure the materials are reinforced. You see how much professors are invested in teaching and working with the TAs. All the professors here at Thayer are very committed. Being a TA made me have a lot of respect for the effort that they put into supporting the students throughout the whole process.