The Mark J. Stehlik Introductory and Service Teaching Award
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh PA 15213-3891
(412)268-8525 . (412)268-5576 (fax)

Three Lessons

Yihuan Zhou
2014 Introductory and Service Teaching Award

From the very first semester of TAing, I've realized that the job was not only to cover material content during lab and office hours, but also to serve as a mentor for the students. It was important to make the effort to learn their names, get to know them as individuals, and be as approachable and available to them as possible. I'd celebrate their successes when they perform well, and motivate them to do better when they're not at their best.

In reflection of these past four semesters, serving as a TA for 15110 has certainly been one of the most memorable experiences of my college career at CMU. It was worthwhile to see how others can grow and develop under your efforts and influence, and it was this sort of satisfaction over others' successes that have driven me to be a better TA semester after semester. Over time, not only was I able to share such valuable learning experiences with my students, but I've also learned three key lessons myself as well.

    1. Patience: As a TA and a mentor, it is important to take time to understand the source of the student's problems and find out the best way to help them. There will always be a student who won't understand the usual analogies, and when that happens, you'll have to be ready to come up with something new and relatable.

    2. Communication: While most may not realize, the tone and choice of words when conveying messages to students are highly critical. I have learned that while you should always be encouraging, you must avoid using terms such as 'basically' when explaining concepts that may not have seemed as simple to the student.

    3. Passion: It definitely is true when people say what you get in return depends on what you put in. Because of the passion and drive I had to see my students succeed, I would make time in my schedule to hold extra office hours, meet with students, and respond to emails and Piazza questions. In the end, it was all worth it.

    As my TA responsibilities come to an end, I hope that I have made a positive impact on all the students with whom I have interacted with. It has been a great time, and I would like to thank the professors and TAs for sharing this experience with me.

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