While working for summer camps is a nice way to fill those lazy summer vacations with productivity, many undergraduates ask, “What can I do to gain good work experience during the academic year?” In answer to this, I turn to working as a Resident Assistant (RA). At BYU, the on-campus, single student housing is dedicated to first year students—many of whom have been out of high school for a matter of months. As an RA, I was assigned as the supervisor of an entire building of eighteen-year-old college freshmen. My jobs included various administrative jobs such as locking the building at night and helping residents observe visiting hours.
These administrative duties, however, were just a small part of my responsibilities. Most of my time was filled by giving advice to these freshmen students, many of whom were living away from home for the first time. I facilitated their transition into college life by acting as a mentor. From this experience, I learned about giving academic advice to students since that was what most residents came to seek my advice about. In a similar fashion, teachers are expected to meet with struggling students and try different ways to foster learning. Teachers are also expected to act as mentors to their students—giving advice for academic success when it is warranted. Admittedly, working as an RA is still a bit detached from teaching in that there aren’t formal lessons involved in the job. With this being said, working as an RA is a great way to develop leadership and mentor skills needed as a teacher.
The final part-time experience I have had in preparation for teaching is working as a teaching assistant. Unlike working at a summer camp or as an RA, working as a teaching assistant for a professor can give prospective teachers actual experience teaching in a classroom. As many undergraduates have probably noted, teaching assistants working with specific professors doing odd jobs such as grading papers, emailing students, and—depending on the professor—teaching lectures. Some positions, such as teaching assistants associated with American Heritage, are actually assigned their own classes to teach in lieu of a professor. Obviously, this is a part-time job that resembles high school teaching better than most. One of the only differences between working as a teaching assistant and working as a full-time teacher are the students. Teaching assistants typically teach other college students while public school teachers work with teenagers. While it is true that there are differences between college and high school students, what teaching assistants gain from their experience are the skills of leading real classroom discussions, grading assignments, and ensuring classroom management. Regardless of the grade level, these three skills are critical for any good teacher.
I recognize that there are other part-time job opportunities that would look good on a resume. I would like to hear from you. What jobs have you had that helped prepare you for teaching?