Sunday, 20 May 2012

Chronicle of a ‘Reluctant’ TTA

In last few days I have received two phone calls & an e-mail from the prospective TTAs of IIM Calcutta. The query was how to prepare for the GD-PI & what is the job profile of a TTA? Now at the very outset I want to clarify that I was a ‘reluctant’ trainee teaching associate, so my views might not reflect the approach of a ‘serious’ & ‘committed’ person. Now, if your employers know that you are not involved enough in the assigned work(s), it is their duty to wring out from you. It wasn’t any exception for me as well. As the days went by, subjects kept piling on me, sometimes five subjects in a single term of three months, attending each of the classes (sometimes from 8.30am in the morning to 7.15 pm in the evening) earned me a tag of ‘reluctant TTA’. Habitually, I am a friendly person. So I made friend with many of the students. That was actually a potential danger. It could lead you to a huge trouble. Complaints may be raised against you for being ‘close’ to the students! And now, the most essential part of the story. TTAs need to work with one-to-one basis with several faculties. You have to act according to their professional necessities. If there is any friction, you might have to face the consequences. I acquired a name of ‘two sides of a same coin’ as I was not able to meet up the expectation of a certain faculty. It was clearly told that the subject TTA had stopped the students from attending a class of a certain subject. His argument was well accepted & naturally enough, no one was bothered to check the attendance sheet of that day! Had they checked, they would have found actually how many students didn’t attend the class that very day! Anyways these are small incidents which are common to all work places & please keep in mind this was an experience of a reluctant TTA. TTAs, those who are serious, committed, sincere, they never ever had faced this. Deserving TTAs always get their dues & for that you just need to ‘perform’. Actually the job is a total fun. I, being ‘reluctant’ & ‘insincere’ was not able to accrue advantage of being a TTA. But there is immense scope, if you really want to use the opportunity of being a part of this august institution! The first thing is learning. Both in & outside the classroom, there are ample opportunities to learn new things. New subjects, known subjects in a different perspective, developing cases would give you an immense pleasure. It is really fun to see how some of the students go to ‘transcendental meditation’ mode as soon as the class starts. You would find how engaging the lectures could be, it would definitely force you to question so many things! These are inside picture of a classroom. Outside learning could be of many kinds, from good to bad to ugly! The next big thing is the evaluation of answer-scripts sometimes with the answer key and sometimes not. I was among those fortunate people who never ever got an answer key from any faculty, in place I had to solve the answers first to prove my knowledge & competency to check the copies. Don’t worry, these were treatment for a ‘reluctant’ TTA, serious people always get the key (to success). Once the copies are displayed, flock of students would come to request you marks by 0.25 to 0.75 for go to the next grade! This is the biggest challenge I always faced. They bombard you with questions … Now the most crucial part, you have to work with atleast 3 faculties at a time. In my case it was never a less than 7 in each of the trimesters. Now, those who are serious & committed would get a chance of gaining indirect experience of various fields from them. Believe me or not, this rapport is essential in some cases. But keep it mind this is from a ‘reluctant’ person, who was reluctant in this too. After working with some of the faculties, I bet, you would have the feeling ‘what a class!! You won’t even realise that 90 minutes have already gone past!!’ If you wish you can have a baby nap in the class, yes, in normal term, this must not be done in the classroom, but TTAs who had slept/missed the class was never tagged as ‘reluctant’. You must not acquire that tag by keeping your eyes wide open! I used to enjoy interaction with the students. This depends on your nature. You might like it, might not. Actually TTAs are thought to be a bridge between the admin & faculty & students & faculty! One of the most enriching experiences is Institute lecture series. Luminaries from different field come to the institute & share their experiences. It was a great learning. Canteens are spreading across the campus. Some coffee shops too are there. Eat well to run fast. (Sometimes faculty sits so far away from TTA block, that additional calorie is required to take that journey ). Many times you might have to miss your food for pending works, though this is true for a reluctant TTA, not for serious persons. I consider the campus as the most beautiful place. It has a magic in it, so even after I left, I keep going back to there. With seven lakes and caring trees with blooming beauties of known-unknown flowers, you would feel it as a different world. Howrah Bridge toward the Faculty block & Hooghly Bridge towards the newest hostels would definitively give you a feeling of your small world in a single place! I was (am) so deeply in love with the campus that I become a photographer!! I never clicked photos before I came here, now people call me a good photographer! So, not to worry! Step in and be ready to make your own journey! In times to come you will surely discover ‘everything is relative’ here!! I can guarantee, this is going to be one of the most enriching experiences of your life, even if you belong to ‘reluctant’ block! PS: I am dedicating this piece to one of the faculty I have worked with consecutively for five terms. I owe many things to that person.