The Teaching Assistant

Here’s another passage that didn’t make the cut because it was a little too close to my own life. I also wasn’t entirely enamored with the use of “you” in this one. It struck me as if the narrator were trying uncharacteristically hard to be chummy with the reader.

The Teaching Assistant

The only reason large universities have graduate programs is so they can palm the majority of their freshmen off on underpaid, overworked and completely unqualified teaching assistants. And before you get the wrong idea, I should point out that academia’s definition of “assistant” is probably much different from yours or mine. You probably associate the word with assistance—as in, “The teaching assistant assisted the professor by meeting with students after class to discuss the intricate and subtle web of phallic imagery that weaves its way through Moby Dick.” The average university administrator, on the other hand, might—with a perfectly straight face—say something like, “Lacking any experience whatsoever, the teaching assistant will assist the university by devising a syllabus, planning lessons, leading class discussions, grading papers, lecturing and serving as a friend, counselor and mentor to fifty or so odd freshman while completing graduate-level coursework, research and examinations each semester.” In fact, no teaching assistant I’ve ever met has actually assisted anyone.

Not that I’m complaining. My grandfather was a coal miner. Dwayne Coleman’s a cop. Anthony Gambacorta doesn’t have a job at all, and Sean Sullivan will probably spend a separate eternity in hell for each dollar he ever gouged from an unsuspecting customer back when he was selling cars for a living. In contrast, none of my classrooms have ever caved in, my students have rarely threatened to shoot me, I’ve never stood in an unemployment line, and except for the occasional hex on my immortal soul, the afterlife shouldn’t pose much of a problem either.  At least not as far as my students are concerned.

6 thoughts on “The Teaching Assistant

  1. I’m enjoying these outtakes. I have a file on my computer where I save all my cut passages. Sometimes, when I go back and reread them, I can’t remember why I took them out in the first place!

    The new blog template looks great, by the way.

    • I do the same thing. Usually I keep a file called “scraps” in the folder of each project I’m working on. One of these days, I should try to assemble an exquisite corpse out of all the scraps I have on my hard drive.

      • It’s supposed to be the best way to “social media,” because ANYONE can talk to ANYONE (no approvals needed)…and you interact with people at a micro level. But it shouldn’t be all about pushing products, but more about interacting and building followings. You can also auto-push your blogs to them. It’s okay to announce a book here and there, just don’t spam. But…it can be a huge time suck if you let it. It’s best if you have a smart phone, too, to make it more useable; I don’t, so don’t get as much out of tweeting as I should…oh, this brave, new world of ours! :-]

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