So You Think You Know Your Teaching Fellows?

Before coming to Yale I thought I’d heard everything I needed to know about so called “T.A.’s” in college – the grumpy, incompetent, and impossible to understand graduate students who would be teaching all of my classes – and resolved to avoid them at all costs. After my first semester I realized that this generalization was far from the truth at Yale.

Here, all undergraduate classes are taught by professors, and we don’t have Teaching Assistants. The incredible resource we do have is a group of highly qualified Teaching Fellows (T.F.) who offer supplementary sections for larger lecture courses. That way I can go over material presented in lecture and do practice exercises in a small class environment of 10-20 students.

                                                 Yale’s School of Medicine

For example, my T.F. for Intro Biology, Barbara Chaiyachati, is an M.D. / PhD candidate at the Yale School of Medicine. She studies epigenetics and is currently in a social work program studying child abuse prevention. One night, I stayed after section to ask Barbara about her work, and what a pre-med student like me could do to learn more about M.D. / PhD programs. She could have ignored me or hustled home and asked me to email her my questions. Instead, she invited me to come tour the Medical School with her, see her lab, and even introduced me to the Dean of Admissions. This summer I’m planning to work at the Haven Free Clinic, a free medical clinic run by Yale medical students and undergraduates, as a translator – all thanks to Barbara.

Haven Free Clinic
Check out the HAVEN Free Clinic by clicking the logo above.

Even though Barbara’s not my T.F. anymore, she still emails me and the rest of our section offering to meet up over lunch or coffee to talk about options for the future. She has been so influential in my first semester here that I can’t believe I came into Yale expecting what I did.