I was left red-faced one afternoon last semester. It was after an office-hour session in which a student had pointed out some mistakes I had made while grading his assignment, making no effort to hide what he thought of me. As a first-time GSI, such moments presented themselves quite liberally last semester. Public speaking has never been a forte, and I was often left completely flustered each time I had to talk to a group of more than 5 people. I would be astounded by the questions they asked our Profs in class, and wonder why the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind! The three words I used more often than any other were “I don’t know.” If there had to be a silver lining, it was only that my pride underwent quite a shrinking, and that I got to meet a great bunch of students, some of whom I can now call friends.
The experience certainly made me better at the job. The grad students in my department are an enthusiastic and intelligent bunch, always eager to learn. That most of them were so gracious when faced with my stuttering, my grading and my inexperience made the learning process a whole lot more enjoyable and certainly helped me relax while learning the ropes, enough to want to go through the process again (and again!) Their graciousness helped assuage my guilt and helped me to concentrate on giving them the best I could. More so, they made me think about my graciousness.
The experience has taught me to be kinder to my teachers. As a student, I tend to place my teachers on a pedestal and then expect them to do no wrong. The last few months have made me realise that I have had the great teachers I did only because some students accepted their mistakes when they were starting out (for the sake of my much-reduced pride, I choose to believe that great teachers are not born, but made). This semester has certainly made me so much more appreciative of every teacher who has tried their best to teach me as well as they could.
And I promise to never, never submit assignments written in bad handwriting again. Perhaps this is the real silver lining. For all the poor souls who have to grade my papers, anyway.
Happy New Semester, everyone!