On Saturday evening I was at a social gathering at a friend’s home. My friend is quite the sociable chap so he knows quite a few people. As such, there were many different groups of people who were invited to said gathering. I was sitting with another friend when I noticed three people show up. One of the gentlemen of the group looked over to where we were sitting and there was a flash of recognition on his face. I did not know he was so I went back to talking to my friend.

A few minutes later, the new gentlemen came over and excused himself and asked me a few questions. He wanted to know if I was at UBC in 2005 and if I was a TA for a first-year engineering course. As many of you, my loyal readers, know, I was indeed a graduate student at UBC who was a teaching assistant for most of my studies. I was a TA for a first year applied science tutorial section and I did that for about five semesters. I really enjoyed running that tutorial because there was a tiny bit of teaching involved, as well as answering questions.

I told my former student that yes, I was his former TA. He introduced himself as Javier but I unfortunately did not remember him. Each tutorial had forty plus students so it was very difficult to keep track of any one individual student. Javier told me he eventually got into mechanical engineering (like myself) but then abandoned it (like myself) for another area of study. He decided to get into physical geography and that is what he is doing now.

I’m not sure if he was just being nice but Javier said that I was a pretty good TA. I replied he probably thought that mainly because I could speak and write fluent English. He laughed at that but admitted that might have had something to do with it. It maybe a sensitive subject, but over the years, I’ve heard many complaints about TAs because they had trouble communicating with their students.

Javier is the first student from my tutorials that I’ve met since I left grad school. I didn’t receive any teaching evaluations during my time there so I had really no clue how I was doing. I marked fairly easy so I’m guessing students had no complaints there. I wonder how many students have seen me on the street and recognized me but never said anything. I applaud Javier for having such a good memory and recognizing me. If the tables were turned, I’d have a difficult time remembering any of my TAs from any of my classes. Those people are just a blur in my memory now.

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