Being a teacher’s assistant comes with risks, rewards



Senior Shaylah Fernandez grades a stack of assignments from Rebecca Williams-Leach’s 1st period Humanities class on March 28..

Kezia Cook, Staff Reporter

Ask any student what they think a teacher’s assistant’s job entails, and most of them will respond with, “I don’t know” or “nothing.” Most students look at it as having a free period, but there are a few TAs who are made to earn their keep.

Teachers are supposed to use their TAs as classroom helpers. In return, those students are given academic credit for the taking on the responsibility.

Senior Shaylah Fernandez, an assistant for 10th grade Humanities teacher Rebecca Williams, said she spends a lot of time entering grades.

“I’m usually assigned to putting down the grades into this little sheet she has and sometimes even grade or putting points down and then organizing her class,” Fernandez said.

However, being a TA does allow for a lot of downtime, especially once all of the assigned tasks are complete. Fernandez said students should know what to expect going in.

“You’re either going to have some work and still be able to do some homework, or you just won’t have to do anything at all and you’ll just get to kick it,” she said. “I guess it varies with the teacher.”

There are students are willing to put hard work and dedication into being a TA, but not all teachers are lucky enough to get those.

Chemistry teacher Daniel Quach said he doesn’t have much to offer his TAs.

“They are very inefficient,” Quach said. “I don’t have much … for them to do so they use that time to do their work or something else, but they just sit around and talk.”

Quach isn’t the only teacher or staff member who has a hard time ending tasks to their TAs. Sue Porter, head nurse in the Teen Health Center, has found the clash between honoring confidentiality and having students help out in the center to be conflicting.

“There are a lot of things I wish I could have them do because it’s a lot of clerical work or something with filing, but because of confidentiality I can’t have them do that,” Porter said. “That’s one of the limitations to them being here.”

The lack of tasks one can do as a TA is only one of the disadvantages to being an assistant. According to SoED counselor Napsiyah Sallee, students have very little to gain from being a TA.

Compared to the usual credits students earn from an academic class, they only get half a credit as a TA for any class that is not in the attendance or nurse’s office. Sallee said this could have a negative impact on a student’s chances of getting into a good college.

“[Colleges] want you to take very rigorous classes and all the classes [you] can so it wouldn’t allow you to be a TA,” Sallee said. “Colleges would just look at your transcript and they don’t know you, they don’t know anything … all they see is your transcript. The only thing I can see them blinking an eye for is, ‘Oh, why is that .25 credit that semester rather than a .5.’”

Whether students are trying to earn credits or add an extra study period, being a TA offers the opportunity for both if students are willing to accept the consequences. But it’s up to students to know if the risks are worth the reward.