Promoting, supporting and encouraging the study of the United States since 1955

British Association for American Studies


Graduate Teaching Assistant report by Anna Béar


Graduate Teaching Assistant report by Anna Béar

[vc_row margin_bottom=”15″][vc_column][dt_banner image_id=”9052″ bg_color=”rgba(0,0,0,0.28)” min_height=”270″][/dt_banner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]I arrived in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2014 feeling just as nervous as I was excited about starting a master’s degree and teaching assistantship at the University of Virginia. Much as I love my subject, I was intimidated by the prospect of standing at the front of a classroom of students not much older than myself, with no training as a teacher and only a few months between the end of my own undergraduate English degree and my new life as a TA. This isn’t to say that I had no support from UVa, which has a dedicated Teaching Resources Centre that ran a training day just before the beginning of the semester and many kind English professors who are always happy to give nervous graduate students their own teaching tips.  Ultimately, however, it was my responsibility to hastily read Heart of Darkness for the first time and, at the end of the first week of my own classes, make my way to an unfamiliar classroom to lead a discussion on Conrad’s challenging novel.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][dt_quote]My first year as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at the University of Virginia has been truly gratifying, to the point where I am now considering becoming an English teacher, says Anna Béar, recipient of the BAAS Graduate Teaching Assistant award.[/dt_quote][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row margin_top=”15″][vc_column][vc_column_text]As I write this ten months later, teaching has become one of the very best things about my experience at UVa. Seeing a student make progress in their work or build brilliantly upon ideas discussed in class in an essay is truly gratifying, to the point where I am now considering becoming an English teacher, a career I had previously almost ruled out for myself. I’ve discovered that there is no better way to get to know a text than to lead a discussion on it in which diverse voices and opinions come through, and working out ways to encourage quieter students to contribute and feel like valued members of the class has been a particularly rewarding task. Even my own academic work has benefited from the process of grading student essays and providing feedback.

Aside from teaching, Charlottesville is a wonderful place to live and study. It embodies much of what I love about America in its history and dramatically beautiful campus and surroundings, and in the enthusiasm and friendliness of its people. My own classes are just as stimulating and challenging as one would expect from a prestigious university, and the English department just as full of inspiring and welcoming people. This year I participated in an anti-rape culture march around campus, at which English was by far the best-represented department in terms of both faculty and students, and the UVa Graduate English Conference, which not only drew speakers from around the country but also gave UVa a platform to celebrate the work of its own students. These two events are emblematic of the community spirit and energy of the UVa English department of which I am lucky enough to be a member. I encourage anyone who is interested in further study in America to apply for a BAAS award – it was one of the very best decisions I have ever made.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row margin_top=”15″ margin_bottom=”15″][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Anna Béar completed her undergraduate degree in English literature at the University of Exeter. She also spent a year at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania and was delighted to return to the States to study for a master’s in English when she received the BAAS Graduate Teaching Assistantship for the University of Virginia. She is currently preparing to write her thesis on American cultural identities in the literary imagination. 

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][ultimate_carousel slides_on_desk=”2″ slides_on_tabs=”2″ slides_on_mob=”1″][dt_teaser image_id=”6727″ lightbox=”true”]Blue Ridge Mountains. Image courtesy of the author.[/dt_teaser][dt_teaser image_id=”6731″ lightbox=”true”]The Rotunda on campus. Image courtesy of the author.[/dt_teaser][/ultimate_carousel][/vc_column][/vc_row]