Hard work pays off… or at least that’s what I’m counting on

Ah, Monday morning. On this particular Monday morning I actually feel like I have a job. Sort of.

For the past week Erik, Jason and I have been discussing our desire to be “grown-ups,” that is, to shed the more student-y aspects of our lives in order to embrace a more adult way of living. In Jason’s case (and mine, really), this entails foregoing online interactions in favor of actual contact with real people in the real world. In our increasingly virtual world, as I’m sure you have all had opportunity to realize, this can be surprisingly hard to do. For my part, growing up means (among other things) having to take up certain habits that I have heretofore been lucky enough to be able to avoid (at least on an everyday basis): regular bedtimes and wake-up times, being washed and breakfasted and dressed before noon, endeavoring to be on time to every appointment. Etc. These things are in many ways far less fun than my previous lazy-ass lifestyle, but there’s a definite satisfaction in doing them.

And these changes come none too early! This entire academic year I will be working at one job — the first time this has happened to me ever, come to think — and although it certainly doesn’t pay like a “real” job, my duties will exemplify one of my recently-made, Alleyn-inspired realizations, which is that: true, respect-worthy authority must be built upon a foundation of hard work and thorough preparation. In other words, no more relying on quick thinking and very credible BS skills to get me through my obligations. I bid them a fond farewell from place of honor, since now they must be relegated only to supporting roles.

So what is this job of mine? I explain. I am the TAC, or TA Consultant, for Writing II at UCLA. WII is a campuswide requirement for all undergrads, and it is fulfilled in the form of a course. Different types of courses in different departments can be WII courses, but common to them all is a hefty amount of writing. In the WII course I TAed last year, Asian American Studies 10W (the “W” denotes WII), the students had to write and revise three five-to-ten-page assignments over the course of the ten-week quarter. That’s no small feat for inexperienced writers, since it comes out to the equivalent of one essay about every week and a half (with allowances for no assignments in the beginning of the quarter). The WII students’ TAs help them learn the writing process, and grade and comment on their essays. My job as WII TAC is to help the TAs figure out how to do this, and watch over them and give them feedback on the process. Hey — this analogy has just occurred to me — I’m the Tim Gunn of Writing II! Awesome! I am unsure enough of myself when I TA (as some of my most astute and well-meaning students have actually pointed out to me, more than once), so having the responsibility now of mentoring other TAs is going to be even scarier. Hence, my newfound focus on hard work and preparation as the keys to success.

This morning, on my path to grown-up-ness, I woke earlyish (eight-thirty), washed, dressed, and even managed a smidge of makeup (more for psychological armor than anything else), before eating some breakfast (oatmeal and tea) and completing some household chores. Then I sat down at my computer to catch up on blogs and news (which I’ve been terrible about following, for the past week). Erik sat on the couch a few feet away, sounding extremely competent and professional in a phone meeting with his coworkers. So far, so good. Then suddenly a small flood of attachment-laden emails arrived in my box, all concerning my TAC duties: handouts and guidelines to look over, schedules and timetables for the next few weeks, instructions for the campuswide TA conference to be held a week from today. I printed these all out, marked all the dates on my calendar, sent some replies, and sat down with the printouts to read them over and make notes. Hoo boy. Now — this feels like a real job.

Reading over the instructions for next Monday’s conference, I was dismayed to find my hands shaking and my heart rate going up. Cause of my nervousness: I feel removed from teaching since I haven’t done it all summer. At the conference I have to teach a microteaching session to about five new TAs, in which I watch them do improvised presentations and then critique their teaching style. Even though I know all my “students” will be far more nervous than I, since they have to come up with a five-minute presentation on the spot and deliver it in front of me and their fellow TAs, I’m still terrified. It’s a bit irrational but there you go. Time to test the truth of my foundations-of-authority theory — a-preparing I shall go! (But how?)

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com.]