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In that instance, a nontraditional student in his 70s wasn't working well with the other students, most of them just 18, and he ended up being a burden to his lab mates. Bauer brought the problem to his TA training class. After much discussion, they concluded it might be best for the older student to rotate to a different lab group each week. “I implemented that change in the lab and it seemed to work,” he says.
Bauer says he would like to be a teacher some day and will use what he learned in White's class. “He pushed the boundaries of what else we could try [in class] and helped us get out of our comfort zones. I think it's a good jumping off point,” Bauer says.
That's what White hopes these biology and chemistry TAs learn: teaching well is a constant learning experience. In the rush to get into graduate school, most graduate students haven't spent time thinking about teaching, he says, and TA training can be the first step toward becoming a great teacher one day—whether his students become professors or not. “It doesn't come easily—and it doesn't happen in one semester.”