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What’s A TA?

Lexi describes her day-to-day as a Russian language TA.

Lexi describes her day-to-day as a Russian language TA.

At Carleton, we take great pride in the fact that all our classes are taught by professors. However, we also take pride in our peer-to-peer learning centers, such as the Writing Center, the Academic Support Center, and TA’s! 

TA stands for “Teaching Assistant.” At Carleton, the responsibilities of a TA can vary from class to class, but the guiding principle is that we’re students who know a thing or two about the class you’re taking. In some classes, mainly STEM courses, the TA is called a “prefect” but that’s more of a semantic difference than anything else.

Whether we work with students on the content, how to study for the class, or both, depends on what the professor has agreed with the TA on. In my case, Russian professor Dr. Laura Goering and I have agreed that my job is to be a “cultural translator” for Elementary Russian students. 

“Cultural translator” just means that I’m facilitating times where students can figure out how to learn in the college environment. My job is to break down some of the assignments and expectations from Dr. Goering to first-years. The transition from high school to college goes much more smoothly when you can consult with someone who has done it before.

Three students study at a table in Anderson Hall
A study space in Anderson Hall

Being a Russian TA has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had at Carleton. I love seeing the wheels turn in students’ minds as they understand a new study skill or new vocabulary word. Getting to know students as individuals, like learning their favorite foods and the way that they learn best, has made this term so interesting and fun!

As a student who utilizes TAs as much as I can, I know how important it is that TAs care about the individuals they’re working with. In my opinion, the biggest role that TAs play is as cheerleaders: everything else follows. We believe in you, so we’re trying to provide you with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed both in the classroom and in the real world.

Did you know that some of the most successful students at Carleton make considerable use of their TAs? For once and for all, seeing your TA is not an admission of weakness or a last resort for a failing grade. Seeing your TA for a class is simply being a good scholar. It means that you care about the class and you want to do well. TAs can model good study habits and make information more accessible to you.

TAs have the advantage of being a peer, and when they lean into that role, it really makes all the difference. My favorite way to do this is by sitting on the floor with students like we’re back in grade school. It breaks the ice and is pretty comfortable!

I am proud to be a Russian TA because I get to work with so many intelligent students regarding a subject I care deeply about. My hope is that they find working with me as valuable as I find working with them!