Teaching Associateship Program
Description of the Training Experience
The Teaching Associate (TA) position is considered an apprenticeship position, meaning that TAs get hired without the minimum qualifications and experience needed to teach at the college level because they have agreed to continue their training, both in their specific discipline as well as in their abilities to teach. In contrast to Elementary or Secondary Credential training, where future teachers need to take at least a year and a half of coursework beyond the Bachelor’s degree before getting their own classroom, TAs are given teaching appointments because of the ongoing training and apprenticeship nature of the job. An added benefit of this TA position is that TAs get priority over lecturers in our department for teaching positions in the first year writing program and in the lower division creative writing classes.
TAs start their training in the first-year writing program. All TAs who are hired start with English 5A and 5B. In the TA’s second year, s/he has the option to choose to teach English 5A/5B again, English 10, or, if the TA is in the creative writing program, English 41, 43, or 44.
The first-year writing program has a lot of support for new and continuing TAs. These forms of support include the following.
Co-Coordinators and other Composition Faculty
The writing program has two co-directors and two additional faculty who teach writing and teach teachers how to teach writing. These faculty take turns teaching the English 270 and 282 courses (see below). We are here to support all TAs in their learning how to teach. We meet with TAs regularly in office hours or via email to discuss, for example, curriculum design, issues with students, and grading issues or decisions. We also support TAs in applying for teaching positions with letters of recommendation and advice about the job market.
The Writing Teachers’ Classroom Collaborative
This is a Blackboard Organization that includes a ton of information and resources about teaching. The Writing Teachers’ Sourcebook (see below) is housed in this organization. We also include template curriculum for each of the three first-year writing classes, so that new teachers, especially, can have something to work from when they are just starting out. It also includes links to teaching resources, as well as activities that were created by other, more experienced TAs and lecturers to use with first-year writing students.
A Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook
This book-length resource provides context about the first-year writing program, includes information about our program’s assumptions about learning, and provides information and activities on different elements of teaching in the first-year writing classroom, such as how to plan for a class, how to manage small groups, how to teach revision, how to support research, and so on. It also includes policies and other kinds of information
English 270: Writing Pedagogy course
This is a 4-unit seminar course required of all teaching associates. If a student wants to be better prepared for teaching before becoming a TA, this course will give those students a head start. This course focuses on current research in the field of writing pedagogy and asks students to engage in the course and content in both practical and scholarly ways. This course provides teachers some concrete methods to use in their classes, but always situates those methods in current research and pedagogy.
English 282: Teaching Practicum
This is a one unit course that all TAs take each semester that they are a TA focusing on the very practical, day-to-day aspects of teaching. This course starts in the first semester with the template curriculum and a lot of demonstration teaching that TAs can use in their day-to-day activities in the classroom. In the second semester, TAs are encouraged to make more of their own decisions with curriculum, so the course focuses more on planning and presenting ideas, materials, and managing relationships with students. The third semester encourages teachers to do even more of the teacher work on his or her own, expecting that TAs will be doing more to scaffold within and across the course. The fourth semester and beyond of English 282 focuses on helping teachers to prepare themselves for the job market and encouraging them to give back to the teaching community.
At the beginning of each semester, TAs attend 1-2 day orientations. These orientations are meant to prepare new and returning teachers for the work of teaching. It is where the template curriculum is introduced to new teachers, where new policies, resources, or university information is distributed, and it is where the community of teachers in our program begins.
Observations and Evaluations
Observations and evaluations are opportunities for mentorship in teaching. Within a TA’s first-year, composition faculty will observe a class and debrief with the TA. TAs also request that we observe their classes later in their programs, as this is a good opportunity for faculty to see what the TA is doing in classes, particularly in preparation for a letter of recommendation or to be a reference for the job market.