I am an assistant teacher this semester, assigned to help in the last hour of an academic writing class. It’s pretty awesome.
We’re deep into the semester right now, and I’ve had the pleasure of conferencing with the same group of students over the course of a couple of months.
A few thoughts about it:
Their writing has improved. They are writing within the structure of a five-paragraph essay much more consistently, the way they explain arguments is becoming clearer, and they are beginning to internalize exactly how to cite references.
Do they know that their writing has improved? When the teacher and I tell them, do they believe us?
Organization and Grammar
There is tension between the two. They’re very different writing skills, but you can’t really excel at one while having serious issues with the other. They must both be addressed.
It’s really hard to find time for both. When I’m teaching, I find it hard to do justice to both in my lesson plans. When I’m assistant teaching, I find it difficult to really address both in my conferences with the students. Seeing how my lead teacher handles the balance has been particularly great professional development for me.
Most of our students use the technology (the internet, the learning management system, the printer, etc.) with ease. The tech facilitates learning, makes information available, and enhances communication. But for a couple of them, the links, the log-ins, the scrolling, and other basics are just hurdle after hurdle in addition to the content.
That means that most of our conferences are about writing, but with one or two students, the teacher and I spend a chunk of their conferencing time helping them find (or re-find) the article that everyone else has been scouring for claims and quotes for ten minutes already. We’re all working together to make it work, but the digital divide is real!
I am so glad to be assistant teaching this semester!