We had a great time this week meeting many of the new TAs and TA supervisors in our pilot program this fall. In keeping with these discussions, I’m passing along a very helpful set of hints about making it through this new phase of your life and learning, grad school, courtesy of a regular column in the Chronicle of Higher Education, ProfHacker (a group blog that UH’s own Natalie Houston contributes to).
There’s lots of good stuff to sort through here, but my favorite piece of advice was this:
Share what you know with others. As you uncover the hidden knowledge and practices of your university, be quick to pass those insights on to others.
This works on a number of levels, but I think of it as one of the keys to having a reasonably happy life in an academic setting.
Try to be a reasonably good teacher and mentor to your students; pass along any useful bits of information that you’ve gathered about the program to the newcomers; form study groups, writing groups, or reading groups to stave off the inevitable isolation of grad school; see how you might benefit from all the learning going on around you. And so forth.
All of this reflects the basic pedagogical principle that I’ve seen validated over and over again in my own teaching: people learn much more by explaining things to others than by having things explained to them.
This kind of intellectual generosity, then, is not simply about making yourself and your knowledge available to others, but learning something in a more lasting way by communicating it to your fellow learners.
Good luck in the coming weeks,