Kate Whitman ’23 on the “rewarding experience” of being a teaching assistant

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Kate Whitman ’23, a sociology major and rhetoric, writing and media studies miner from Bedford, New York, is a student writer for the Trinity Office of Communications. She is part of the Ivy Society at Trinity and sings with the Trinitons, Trinity’s oldest all-female a cappella group. Here, she reflects on her experiences as a teaching assistant for a creative writing course she herself took as a freshman:

Kate Whitman’23

I always loved English and writing classes in high school, so coming to Trinity I knew I wanted to continue studying the art of writing. I particularly enjoyed writing short stories and poems because of their abstract and personal elements.

In the spring of my freshman year here, I had already taken introductory social science and math classes to meet my major and degree requirements, but I wanted to broaden my college experience. I had heard wonderful things about the “Introduction to Creative Writing” course and its instructor, Trinity Artist-in-Residence Clare M. Rossini, so I decided to sign up.

Despite the course moving to Zoom in the middle of the semester due to the pandemic, my skills as a writer have grown tremendously and I have had a new love and appreciation for English lessons at Trinity. The course inspired me to continue taking English classes, as well as declaring a minor in Rhetoric, Writing, and Media Studies.

In the spring of my first year, Professor Rossini contacted me to become a teaching assistant for the “Introduction to Creative Writing” course this fall. I was thrilled to hear from her, as I hadn’t taken a class with her since my freshman year.

I never imagined being offered the teaching assistant role as a senior manager for the course three years later, and I was looking forward to accepting it. I work with students who, like me in first year, appreciate the freedom and diversity of creative writing. This opportunity allows me to repay the advice and assistance given to me by a TA when I was in the course.

Artist in Residence Clare M. Rossini
Artist in Residence Clare M. Rossini

Teaching assistants are an additional resource for Trinity students, providing them with increased personal attention and engagement inside and outside the classroom. The exact job description varies by subject, as each course requires specific support from the student selected for the position. Teaching assistants are expected to bring lived experience to the role, as they must have taken the course themselves beforehand.

As TA for “Introduction to Creative Writing”, I am available for meetings outside of scheduled class times to review assignments, readings, intermediate exams and final portfolios. I am a link between the students and the faculty member if they have any questions or concerns regarding the curriculum, assignments, or general interview grades. We review the articles they write in individual and group meetings. This way they can get feedback from different points of view and not just from the instructor. I have already taken the course, so the feedback I offer comes directly from my own experience in creative writing. Every student in this semester met me at least once, which allowed me to not only help them improve their own writing skills, but also to get to know them as people and as peers.

Professor Rossini sees how a teaching assistant can help improve her students’ writing. She told me, “When students meet with you a few days before their due date, they get a friendly, experienced writer’s perspective on their work before revising it. So the poem or story marinated a bit before being rendered. In class, I often hear comments like “Kate had a great idea for the title” or “Kate really helped with the end of the story”. Seems to me like a win-win arrangement – the TA, my students and I all benefit. »

English Writing Center Building
The English Department building at 115 Vernon Street.

At the start of the semester, Professor Rossini was out of town and unable to teach a class, so she asked me if I would be teaching solo that day. This class meets once a week for 2 hours and 40 minutes, so skipping a class would mean wasting valuable discussion and learning time. I took teacher studies courses at Trinity, which I enjoyed, but I had never had the opportunity to teach a group of students. It helped me to deepen my relationship with the students in the course, as I was able to really get to know them through the group discussions that I facilitated. We spent the class diving deep into some of the students’ poems, discussing what we liked, and offering our suggestions. It was a productive and rewarding experience to be able to help students who reminded me so much of my freshman self.

The experience of being a TA is something that will stay with me long after I graduate from Trinity, and I will certainly use the skills I developed in the role in my future endeavours.

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