Friday, April 24, 2009

I got this plaque...

I got an award today: Award for distinguished service as a teaching assistant. They give one out a year in the department. I don't know why they don't just say, teaching assistant of the year. Probably cause it doesn't look as good on a plaque.

It's funny, I don't think I deserved it this year. Last year and the year before, yeah, my teaching work was the best. I mean absolutely stellar. I went all out - not for an award or anything but I always try to do a good job. This year, well, my heart just was never in it. I kind of half-assed it all the way. I was teaching the same things I always teach which means I often have the ability to phone it in but still, I just don't think I really deserved it this year.

Oh I imagine there were politics along the lines of, "well, we gave it to so-and-so last year because it was their last chance so we better give it to Jason this year." Still, I don't like receiving something because it was my turn. I mean, I want to deserve it. Don't get me wrong, I smiled and accepted the award when it was given. I took the plaque and immediately added the line to my resume and re-sent it out. I'm not stupid or anything.

I just wish it meant to me what it should mean. I wish it meant what it would have meant last year. I knocked it out of the park last year. Last school year, I had the absolute best reviews by students of any teaching assistant on the entire campus. I actually know that. I scored a perfect five-O in instruction satisfaction. That's a perfect score and is largely unheard of. I had a hundred and twenty students and that was the final result. Every last one of them scored me perfectly. Really. that's unheard of.

This year, I phoned it in. This year I BS'd it. I mean, I know exactly why they gave it to who they did last year. I don't begrudge that person. Trust me, I really like the person who got it. That person did a great job and it was that person's last year teaching. This was awarded to me this year to make sure it got spread around. It just feels a little wrong.

It's nice having a plaque though. I'd never had one before. All my friends growing up had been in sports teams and at some point or another, their team won some league championship or something. They all had trophies and plaques and what-not. Now I have an award for distinguished service as a teaching assistant.

What distinguishes service as a teaching assistant? Ok, if someone came in with a gun to the classroom and the TA wrestled the person to the ground and no-one was hurt, that would be distinguished service above and beyond. All I did was what any reasonable teacher does. I cared and I didn't let them know I cared. You see, you have to be tough. You have to take someone you absolutely adore and take them out to the hall and quietly but efficiently tear into them about their abuses. You have to scare them into thinking the most important thing in the world is not disappointing you. Generally, when it comes up, I try to make such a student hate me for it. The reason you do it is because afterwards, their grade goes from just failing to a bit above passing. At the end, they walk away angry and that is left with you the rest of your life. You carry it forever. You say to yourself, "but look what happened to their grade."

The problem is that I carry it with me. I have this plaque which says I was awarded for distinguished service as a teaching assistant. It's nice to have a plaque. Seeing it, well it makes me cry. Remembering my own cold, hard words, remembering the the uncaring looks I gave, that hurts. I have no idea what becomes of the students I teach. When I drink, I like to think that I pushed them a little farther and that helped in their lives. When I am sober (and believe it or not, that's the vast majority of the time), I do everything I can not to think about it.

The problem is, I have this plaque. I hate teaching...

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