Every year, inevitably, I wake up on the first day of school with the sultry sounds of an over-hyper clown fish whispering at the back out my head (“FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!”). There’s an anxiety that comes with day one; will I like my classes? Will I produce good work? What’s the reading load going to be like? Good god, will I survive the semester?
This year, my first day of school was slightly different. Today, first thing, I had the first session of the class which I’m TAing this semester (Directing I). Being a TA is a new and interesting experience for me. I’ve been a grader, I’ve been a co-instructor, I’ve been a production lab overseer, but I’ve never before had this particular job title.
The TA’s job is to make the professor’s job easier. I’m there to run interference on
workload which means I’ll be doing a lot of grading, a lot of fielding “tier one” questions (“When is this due?”, “How do I do this assignment?”, “Am I missing anything completely obvious that I shouldn’t be missing?”), and a lot of listening. I’m also there to learn to do my job.
Academia is one of the last professions which still truly employs the apprenticeship system. As I learn and expand, write papers, and produce my own original research, I also have the golden opportunity to observe an old pro in the field, on his feet, and doing the job that I hope to one day be doing. I get to see how he interacts with students, how he handles the tough situations which inevitably arise, and on the whole the strategies he uses to perform the duties expected of him which will (I hope) one day be expected of me.
So yes, I sit in class and listen. But more importantly than that, I’m dissecting and trying to understand the point behind every little exercise the professor puts forth to his class. Why is this question important? What are the students getting out of this? What is the professor getting out of this? How does the professor best utilize the class time allotted to him to most effectively convey the information he wishes to?
Even after day one, I’m already seeing a few tips and trends (to be digested and applied as the semester continues; I’m not quite ready to stick them here for all the world to view). I’m extremely excited to continue into the semester, and extremely appreciative that I have the opportunity to work with this particular professor.
Another neat thing about this class is that it meets in the theatre. At Tufts, our mainstage is the Balch Arena Theatre; a theatre in the round (though often a section of seats is removed for productions making it a three-quarter space). Just being in the space brings a vibrant energy to the class. So often, especially at the undergrad level, we are extremely far removed from what we are studying. To be able to practice something within a space reserved specifically for it brings an immediacy and relevancy to the work and truly validates the experience. THIS is why we are here. THIS is where it all begins and ends.
It’s all very Peter Brooks.
Also: pro tip passed on to me by a dear friend that, in my experience, works every time. If you want to feel smarter, wear argyle. It’s the best disguise I can think of for an understated “I know and see all” vibe. I often double-dip on the argyle since I have a weakness for argyle knee socks under boots.
As an aside, I learned today where the package room is at Tufts. Of course, since the package room at any university is tucked away from all semblance of civility or society, my discovery involved an adventure on the downhill side of campus walking around in the weepy rain of today’s gray dreariness and spelunking buildings I had never before been into. Ultimately, my findings were somewhat of a disappointment as the “VITAL PACKAGE” waiting for me was only my commuter parking sticker for the year. Ah well. Eat your heart out, Indie.