Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Unfortunate are the students whom I'm a teacher (TA) to...

Busy as bee for the past few weeks! It includes working in lab, coming in on weekends for the second job, visiting my sister in Boston over Easter, preparing review notes for a class that I'm a TA for, etc. The list goes on and on and on...

Enough complaining! Amongst this busy-ness, I've been able to squeeze in little joys. I made pretzels (again) this past weekend. We also walked around downtown, basking in the temporary sun and warmth for a few hours on Sunday. I was planning to make macarons (or French-style macaroons) but didn't have a key ingredient: almond flour, so that'll have to wait until at least this weekend.

But, even my TA experience is enjoyable. It pays just ok and some of the lecturers have been ... let's just say, difficult. It's a bit of a pain having to xerox copies of notes (what am I, a secretary?). However, I really enjoy interacting with the students. People may ridicule the undergrads here for being sombre, weird, strange, bookish or even (gasp!) nerds, but it's quite fun for the teacher (or TA, in this case) to know that our effort in sharing knowledge isn't wasted. The students in my class actually participate and ask thoughtful questions! I mean, it makes me feel crappy when I can't answer them (after all, Science is an evolving process and I can't know everything), but it's pretty cool to at least know that the students are paying attention and using their brains!

I initially took on this job to bolster my (limited) presentation/public speaking abilities. I'm quite shy in a large group of relatively unfamiliar people but I know that if I were to continue on the academic research pathway, I will have to give talks in front of people I don't know all the time. I must say that I'm getting better at not being nervous before a talk, but I still have lots of work in terms of poise, style and organization. Also, I may know a bit about insulin resistance/diabetes/obesity but having to explain it to beginners/younger students who haven't had the exposure I did is a challenge I like. After all, there are always going to be doubters and it's part of a scientist's job to engage the interest of the non-scientist public. Although I never thought of going into teaching as a career, it's definitely an open option if the whole academic research schlepp doesn't work out. It's a lot of behind-the-scenes work but now I kind of understand why some people actually enjoy it.

That's all my rambling for now but I'll be back with an update on my awesome Boston trip! Ciao!