Future Shoes & Present Resolutions

Welcome back, and welcome forward: into a new year! 2015 brings many things; not the least of which is that Marty McFly should be showing up (along with some sweet kicks), and not the most of which is that I get to be a Teaching Assistant (TA) for a biomedical ethics course in Scarborough. But, as everyone who’s ever seen a superhero movie likes to note: with great power (laces) comes great responsibility. Or, something like that.

So this year, for the first time in many years, I’ve put myself to the task of making a few New Year’s resolutions. Some of them, with particular regard in mind for my roles and responsibilities as a TA. I thought I’d share some of them here, so that you can all hold me accountable.

1. Stop trying to understand people through my own experiences, and just listen more. By trying to understand others through my own experiences, I risk misunderstanding them or diminishing their own experiences. It’s hard to fully understand something completely new when you’re actively trying to relate it to old knowledge. My goal is to be less preoccupied with trying to understand others, and turn to focus more on hearing what they have to say. I think this is especially important in a diverse classroom where students may be coming from all sorts of backgrounds. The goal is not to talk over students, nor to constantly try to reframe their statements (“So, are you trying to say something like…?”), but rather to create a listening space where everyone is safe to speak and welcome to be heard.

Photo of Wittgenstein's famous duck-rabbit. An ambiguous image which looks like a duck, or like a rabbit, depending on your perspective and your familiarity with ducks or rabbits in general.

If you spend your whole life looking for ducks, you might never see the rabbit sitting in plain sight. [source]

2. Try best to assume that people doing or saying harmful things don’t know any better. The course I’m the TA for covers a lot of sensitive topics, and it’s easy to accidentally say a good idea in the wrong way, and to unknowingly end up hurting others. While I will be doing my best to keep my classrooms a safe space, I want to also keep in mind that people don’t always know when they’re being harmful: I certainly don’t! And it can be difficult to be confronted with the fact that you’ve done something wrong; especially when you have no idea you’d done so. My goal is to keep in mind that everyone makes mistakes, and to avoid making people feel bad or victimized for actions when they might not know any better.

3. Stop caring about other people’s grammar. This is a pretty tough one for me. I’ve done my fair share of correcting people’s grammar. In part, probably because I have difficulty understanding people some times, and in part because I just find that it’s sort of a fun puzzle-solving activity. But to be able to worry about grammar is rather privileged of me, and to call people out on their grammar can be really insensitive. Toronto is a big city with people from all over the world and a vast spectrum of individual backgrounds. It’s really unfair to expect people to have perfect grammar. Aside from when I’m grading papers (when it’s my job to care!), my goal is to care less about other people’s grammar or spelling. Just like with my other resolutions, I want to focus more on caring what other people have to say more than how they say it.

Picture depicting how "We invited the rhinoceri, Washington, and Lincoln, could be taken in two completely different ways, depending on how one implements their Oxford commas. The photoshop job is a little lazy, but the sentiment is cute.

I doubt they’ll be showing up, but I can understand your point even if you do without the (beloved and important) Oxford comma [source].

What about you? Have any New Year’s resolutions
you’re trying out? Let me know in the comments below!

New Year, New Me (Hopefully)

Welcome Back U of T!  The turkey has all been eaten, the sidewalks are icy, and the bookstore is busy again. It’s the beginning of a new semester which means it’s a fresh start – a clean slate to leave the procrastination and bad habits of first semester behind! 

A collection of images from the first semester. Photos vary from images of restaurant dinners to social occasions.

While first semester was very fun, you’ll notice there’s no pictures of studying…

It’s funny how, as students, we get the chance to make “New Years Resolutions” twice a year – once in September, and once again in January. We’re driven by the belief that a new semester will actually change something – that it will actually be different. 

When in reality, it rarely is. 

Image of man drinking beer looking directly at the camera with a meme overlay reading "New seamster starts Monday... great, nothing to do until Exams

I’m really really REALLY trying to not let this be my mindset this semester

This year however, I’m determined to break the trend. I’m saying goodbye to Wednesday night movie marathons and Canton Chilli VISA debt, and hello to setting morning alarms and using an agenda. 

Here’s how I’m planning to do it; 

1. Using an Agenda

Picture of a student agenda with colour-coded events and lists

I was an avid agenda user in high school and first year, so I don’t know why I dropped this habit. For me, writing everything out makes me retain it more and makes it seem more urgent than typing it into an app. 

Tip: I still love my to-do apps though! Wunderlist is my favourite for school, grocery lists, blog post ideas, and everything in between. 

2. Getting A Job

When I say first semester took everything out of me, my bank account is included. I’m hoping that by getting a job in January, and easing into the hours, I’ll have some time to adjust and potentially something I can keep through the summer!

Tip: If you’re also looking for a job, check out the Summer Job fair on Tuesday in Varsity Dome from 11am-3pm

3. Making a Routine 

Photos of pre-set alarms starting at 7am and ending at 10:30am

Don’t let this be you

My schedule is pretty inconsistent: some days I have to be up at 7:30, while others I can sleep in until noon. This semester I’m determined to make a routine of getting up and going to bed at the same time every day. Obviously exceptions will be made, but a regular sleep schedule dramatically increases the quality of your rest!

Tip: If your problem is getting out of bed in the morning – try this app which makes you get out of bed to turn it off! 

4. Attending More Events

Being a Community Crew member, and just a student at U of T, I see about a hundred cool event listings every day. Rarely however do I actually make the time to attend one of these events! Using the agenda tip above, and some wrought iron determination, I am making it my goal to do one new thing a week! 

Tip: If this sounds like something you’re interested in, join in on social media and use the hashtag #TryitUofT when you do something new on campus! 

Photo of a live band performing

I’ve already started to work on this resolution by attending most of the Winterfest events last week!

So this is what I’m going to try to keep up this semester! I’m already one week in and feeling pretty good about it – but I would love if you could all help keep me on track by tweeting me @Rachael_UofT. Share your “New Semester Resolutions” with me and maybe we can help each other achieve our goals! 

For now U of T enjoy the beginning of a new semester, and stay warm! 

Congratulations and Celebrations

In one of my favourite classes here at U of T, we learned about something called reflective practice. It’s essentially the process of looking back and learning from our experiences. Now that we’re smack in the middle of finals, I’ve been having those “when will we ever actually use this in real life” rants. To keep my morale up I’ve decided to actually apply what I learned in school (!!!!) and be reflective about 2014! How fitting considering this is my last blog post of 2014!

I’ve had the busiest but most rewarding summer of my life, working three jobs while doing summer school. I was a more active part of the extracurricular scene at U of T, joining the executive team of several clubs I was interested in during first and second year. I’ve also even managed to fulfill some of my 2014 New Year’s Resolutions by bringing my grades up, staying more organized and eating healthier.

Picture of tupperware with veggies sitting next to chocolate on the desk

(That last one’s still in the works. But hey, there’s still 3 weeks left of 2014. And miracles can happen.)

But the point of reflective practice is to highlight what I learned and what I could do differently. So what have I learned this year?

  • I’ve learned how to write a killer blog post (All credits go to Tricia!!)
  • I’ve learned enough yoga to strike a perfect yoga pose for pictures
Api and Aviva doing yoga poses

Me and fellow Healthy U Crew member Aviva striking some poses at Unplug Fest. Photo Credits to Carly Michelle!

  • I’ve learned how to get A’s on papers
Photo of api holding a Paper with "A-" written on it

See! I wasn’t lying!!

  • I’ve learned how to plan events to help people get more involved!
photo of tables set up in Hart House East Common Room for Global Health Expo

Throwback to Global Health Expo!

I realize that all these lessons equate to one thing:  I learned how to step out of my comfort zone. My comfort zone has always been with a small group of friends and a small range of activities, but 2014 was the year I made an effort to explore new places, try new activities and meet new people! If this whole process has been me breaking out of my shell, then 2014 was just the first crack! Here’s to 2015 being another year of great experiences! But there is one thing that was the most important thing I’ve learned this year:

Screen capture of tweet by @Api_UofT reading: "Winter in Toronto went 0 to 100 real quick"

I’ve perfected the art of bad drake puns

Congratulate yourselves on the accomplishments and celebrate the victories! Let me know about your year, your holidays or even just how your day is going down in the comments! Happy holidays, and happy finals everyone! Remember, you might actually be able to use some of that knowledge in real life (lol).

Another Year Wiser

December has finally arrived! I always love this time of year. December is a special time when we welcome winter into our lives and focus on getting away from the cold crazy world out there and curl up inside where it’s warm. Winter is also a time of reflection.

Looking out from a dark tunnel in a St. Michaels residence into an open courtyard with a large fountain

Almost through the passage, into bright newness (Photo by Zachary Biech)

This post is my last of 2014! Can you believe it? This semester has flown by so fast! I’ve learned so many new things, met many new people and had many new experiences.  I can honestly say this has been one of the most exciting half-years in my life.

The tangled wilderness and fallen leaves strewn around a secret garden behind the Victoria College library

I’ve done so much exploring, and yet I finally just stumbled into this park at Victoria College (Photo by Zachary Biech)

So much has changed and I have changed as well. I’m still the same old Zach but university life changes everything. I finally embraced that change and even caused some of it on my own.

A notebook page with "thanks" written in Anishnaabemowin, Russian, and English

These are all thank-you’s to my friends and family for their birthday wishes, in the three languages I use these days (I recently turned twenty, just to add more change into the mix!) On my birthday, I wrote a syllabics test for Anishnaabemowin, studied Russian, and submitted an essay which had Russian Politics AND Indigenous studies… (Photo by Zachary Biech)

To cap off the year, I’ll share some key points of my success this semester.

Key #1: Balance.

Balance balance balance! In my first blog, I shared my journey towards balance and how that journey has shaped my university experience. In short, all you need to do is recognize the four areas of your life, (body, emotion, mind, spirit) and give them each equal attention. Trust me, it works.

Key #2: Do what you love.

You are the only person who knows best what you are interested in and how you want to live and work. Celebrate those interests; they are what make you so special! It’s tremendously hard work to be a university student between classes and everything outside of class so it’s important to choose things you are comfortable pouring your heart and soul into (I think you’ll find the hard work feels much easier this way!)

Key #3: Change is as good as rest.

It’s amazing how big an impact you can have on yourself by changing things up. Try getting away from campus for a while, explore new areas and even rearrange some furniture if you have to. Change it up, it really helps!

Key #4: Get involved.

There are so many different groups you can engage with at U of T and in downtown Toronto, there’s bound to be something you’d love. So try going to a couple of meetings and choose groups that you feel you can connect with. The networks and projects you can build are limitless and the skills and energy you develop in those groups is invaluable.

Looking out into a large gymnasium, with many tables of Indigenous artworks and handmade crafts

As promised, here’s a view of the NCCT craft sale I volunteered at! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

A table with huge baskets of colourful candies and crafts, which were the prizes for the raffle

Here’s the raffle table from the NCCT craft sale, where I was stationed (Photo by Zachary Biech)

For instance, being a part of the Student Life Blog has been hugely helpful in my life. I get a lot more writing and editing practice which helps me with essays and assignments.  I get to expand and share my experiences, all while connecting with my Blogger peers, who are all amazing friends I am thankful to have!

Looking south over all of the awesome buildings of campus, towards all the huge towers down by Toronto's waterfront (including the CN Tower)

An awesome view of campus from the OISE Nexus Lounge, during the Indigenous Winter Social (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Keep these 4 keys in mind in your life at university and your path will become much clearer.

That’s all from me for now! Wait for my next blog in 2015!

Internet and Outernet

For more than the last eight weeks, I have had no internet access at home. It’s been a difficult time. Undertaking research projects for credit, applying to grad schools, blogging here… all while not having internet access was difficult. No longer could I Facebook from my bed; no longer could I know what the weather would be like later that day (my radio’s on the fritz too); I haven’t watched youtube videos or TV in over two months. In order to do anything, I had to commute to campus, to coffee shops, loitering outside closed cafes at one am hoping that “maybe they left their router on over night”. Instead of having the INternet, I had to make do with the OUTernet; and when I didn’t want to travel to use the OUTernet, I had to put up with the WITHOUTernet. (But not this kind of Outernet: I’m just making a bad pun).

Admittedly, things have been rough: I’ve spent a lot of time on campus, in libraries and offices and study spaces, late into the night. I’ve fallen asleep at desks and on couches, realizing that I can’t get home in time to pass out. I’ve gone to no fewer than six classes which were cancelled by email the day before. (But, I’ve burned a lot of calories running back and forth between house and internet, and that’s okay, right?).

Yet, there are a few things to be said about living without the internet at my fingertips. I have learned to be more efficient with my time online, rather than thumbing around through cat videos and television, mindlessly scrolling through facebook, sending long winded emails, or worrying about keeping the world apprised of my life. And, because of this, I’ve also procrastinated less. Or, rather, I’ve found better ways of procrastinating. Instead of digging deeper and deeper into the unfathomable (and often very very weird) depths of the internet, I’ve been able to actually read some of the books I own (you know that feeling: owning fifty books for every one that you’ve read). And, reading those books has accidentally helped with my research, when not simply just enjoyable in and of themselves.

It’s also been rather good for my mental health, not being constantly bombarded by and accountable to people and posts and emails online. Having time to myself, by myself, rather than that sort of fake time alone where we’re surrounded by hundreds of Facebook friends or tweeters. Being able to have the space to relax, think about the things I need to think about, or not think about the things I don’t, has really helped me survive a crazy year. (Though, admittedly, there is a lot of online self-care I’ve missed out on).

Ultimately, as much as there is suffering, there is growth; cheesy as it may sound. It’s been good to be away from the web. We should probably try it more often, and it’s probably a good thing to try for the exam period: toning down on that distraction and learning to appreciate the internet for what it is.

And with that, I’m off[line?] for the holidays. Good luck with your midterms and exams; we’ll talk again in January.

Some Reminders:

Don’t forget to fill out your course evaluations: let your voice be heard

And, have you had a really exceptional Teaching Assistant (TA) this term? Consider nominating them for a TATP TA Teaching Excellence Award!

Closer to the Art

Art is great. I don’t always understand it, but it’s still great. Being able to convey feelings or stories in many ways is a treasure. Even if you’re like me and the best image you can draw is a stick-figure, visual art forms can be fascinating.

The most amazing bagel with tomato sauce, pizza pepperoni, and molten mozzarella cheese you've ever seen (with a bite taken out already by an overzealous Zach)

First Nations House Lunch on Friday Nov. 28: Simple, delicious, a work of art! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

For me, guitar can convey feelings when words just won’t do. But visuals really help me learn best.

String-level view looking down the fretboard of my electric guitar (did I mention the guitar is bright green!)

One piece of my rock n’ roll arsenal (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario with my Mom (which I mentioned in last week’s blog) to see the Anishinaabe Artists of the Great Lakes special exhibit. It’s incredibly powerful stuff. There were many stories, some ancient and some about present-day life. And there was me wandering around in deep thought. People probably thought I was just lost and that I didn’t know I was in an art gallery.

The top half of my head, wearing an awesome bright red Calgary Flames toque

The Flames toque I’ve needed to wear all over the place because of the November cold also makes people look at me funny, especially at the AGO (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Music can be just as moving. For instance, my Mom brought me a CD called True Blue, by a pow-wow drum group called Northern Cree. It’s awesome. Those guys can really sing. Such music reminds me how much I enjoyed starting to learn the “N” dialect of the Cree language over the summer at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto.

A picture of the CD case for the album True Blue by Northern Cree

Awesome Album (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I always enjoy the artwork in First Nations House. The more I look around, the more I find. The paintings on the walls are a nice change from most U of T buildings and I think the birch bark canoe is grand. There’s a Great Lakes Canoe project run through Mizwe Biik, in which they built that canoe and paddled it out onto one of the Great Lakes. It’s a different style of art and I recommend you check out their next project if you’re looking for a really cool opportunity.

A wall mural of a river, forest, and Toronto skyline, with a bear and it's cub, in Indigenous woodland style

Just one of the huge murals that adorns First Nations House’s walls (Photo by Zachary Biech)

At the Native Canadian Centre, you can also do a lot of fun volunteering projects. Over the summer, I helped do the judging for the Young Native Artists 2015 Calendar contest, where kids from reserves all over Ontario from kindergarten to grade 12 submitted artworks (about a thousand in total) for us to choose from. We had a blast. We picked a winning piece for each month, plus one for the cover and one for a small motif which is on all the pages.

The inside cover of the 2015 Young Native Artist's Calendar, with all the names and communities of the winning artists and other contributors

The amazing artists for this year’s calendar! Note my name under the committee member list in the bottom left-hand corner (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Those kids are amazing, they are all winners. Two kindergarten students got into the calendar, they blew me away. Their art is all very beautiful and skillful, and some of the pieces are so witty, we just had to choose them!

The calendars are available at NCCT for 5$ each. They are a perfect gift for the holidays. NCCT is also having their big craft sale on November 29th. I’ll be volunteering there as well, and maybe next week I’ll post pictures of the action!

One last note: First Nations House, The Centre for Aboriginal Initiatives, the NSA, SAGE, IEN, and the Office of Indigenous Medical Education are all working together to host this year’s Indigenous Winter Social at OISE on Friday December 5th from 3:00 to 5:00 pm. Come check it out!

A great whale wall mural in western Indigenous art style

More of First Nations House’s beautiful imagery (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Cycles of Change

November has arrived and fall is in full swing.  For me, everything seems to have changed all at once. Over the weekend after my latest midterm, I got back into my housekeeping and admin routine. Though my tasks were fairly straightforward, things just seemed different. It’s hard to describe.

Looking up at the main Victoria College building, towards the dark green coverings on the scaffolding. The building seems to be undergoing some lengthy renovations

Everything needs change every now and then (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I felt new energy starting to lift me into the new month. Even little things were ready for change like my decision to clear out some of the year-old sticky-note reminders I had left myself about lists of CDs to buy (yes I still buy CDs) and miscellaneous ideas for cheesecake baking.

Two shelves full of CD cases, with everything from Jeff Beck to Van Halen, in alphabetical order of course.

I think I’ve listened to these ones about 1000 times each… (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Rarely does the shift into a new month or season feel so abrupt in university as the days and weeks often blend together amidst the midterm madness. I’ve been trying to figure out where this new energy is coming from or more importantly where it’s leading me. After reflecting on the semester so far, I quickly realized that this rejuvenating feeling is definitely no accident. I’m simply completing a cycle, and launching into the next one.

I think it’s important to recognize the cycles we experience in life. For most U of T students, I think the cycle may look like this: Wake up, eat, studystudytstudystudy, sleep, repeat. Hmmmm. That doesn’t seem very healthy does it? Read my earlier posts about balancing and time management if you want to break this cycle.

Cycles are larger in scope than we realize. I’m not sure what’s all in the cycles of university life but I can tell you that to complete your cycle, you really need some social time. September and October have been very social for me and I think the positivity of nurturing relationships with friends has really contributed to the momentum I’m feeling.

For Thanksgiving, a friend was very kind and invited me to Mississauga to have lunch with their family and friends. What a grand feast! And I have to add that it’s well worth it to hop on the Go Train and get out of downtown if you’re stuck down there like I am. I made sure to soak in some refreshing new sights and spent some time exploring some of the peaceful neighbourhoods in Port Credit too. Good for the mind.

Halloween was also a brilliant final piece to finish off October. Me and a big group of friends all dressed up and headed to the Hart House of Horrors Halloween event.  Rest assured, we were terrifying.  Let’s just say that every Halloween from now on, U of T students will remember the fear that overtook them when the lord of the night, Count Zachula, first appeared from the shadows…

A selfie of me nad my terrifying fake vampire fangs.

Count Zachula strikes! With a selfie… (Photo by Zachary Biech)

The Debate Room in Hart House, only lit with a faint red glow, with many strange clown creatures lurking in the shadows

Some of the rooms in Hart House were turned into a freaky carnival, complete with the clown monsters (Photo by Zachary Biech)

A large clown mannequin, with a particularly snarly smile

This is my friend Fred, we met at the Hart House of Horrors. When I asked him to show me around, all he did was shrug and glare at me with murderous intent… (Photo by Zachary Biech)

A small archaic looking switchbox sitting next to a monstrous fellow in a straight-jacket and hooked to a starnge machine, with a sign that reads "Pull Switch...If You Dare"

One of my friends dared to flip the switch. We thought the mannequin in the chair would do something, but instead the switch-box flipped open and a monstrous Jack-In-The-Box began cackling at us maniacally (Photo by Zachary Biech)

First Nations House is a great place to stop by every week if you need a little socializing. Every face is friendly and every conversation is worth every moment. Just sayin’…

What do you do to socialize? When’s the last time you finished a cycle and entered into something entirely new?

Me staring aimlessly into the background (wearing my fangs and cape),in front of a photobooth backdrop

Count Zachula, blissfully unaware that the photobooth machine was still taking pictures (Original Photo by Snapshot Photobooth)

What’s the deal with “Open Access Week”?

Last week was Open Access Week (or OAweek as the hashtag goes), both at UofT and around the world. The UofT Libraries and the Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office were pretty big on pushing OAweek, but when I mentioned to the other bloggers that I was planning to write on it this week they asked: “What is OAweek and what does ‘open access’ mean?”. Good questions. Important questions. Let me start answering by asking another question:

How much would it cost you to write your last essay without library access?

That means, if you had none of the free access to journal articles, papers, ebooks, and other resources provided through the libraries here, how much money would you have to pay to access those resources you needed to write that last paper? Andrea Kosavic did the math on one of her papers about open access (yup: ironic); her answer? $488.96 USD. And that’s only because half of her sources were open access (we’ll get to defining that in the next paragraph). I took her example and did the math on one of my own papers. Thankfully, most of my works cited were open access too, but the three papers I cited which were not would have cost me $38.97.

Can you imagine paying almost $500 to submit a class paper?

The fact is, we have great access to resources through our library system, but a lot of the world does not. The Open Access movement is about creating unrestricted online access to peer-reviewed scholarly research. That means that anybody, anywhere, should be able to have access to scholarly research and knowledge, for free, online, from anywhere, regardless of who they are. There are a few reasons to do this. First, it makes it cheaper for students to access scholarly research needed to do the work we’re assigned. Did you know that the University spends $14,000,000 on journal subscriptions per year?! That’s more than the tuition of 2,317 domestic students. That’s a huge amount of money to be spending to make resources available, when they could be free.

And it’s not just students, but researchers everywhere. It’s hard to do original research when you need to pay money to do it, and especially hard for those who do not have access to the resources we are privileged with. How many researchers do you think there are at institutions who can’t afford journal subscriptions, or who aren’t even affiliated with academic institutions? How can public libraries afford to keep up with costs like this? This is what OAweek is about: raising awareness for open access issues. The video below (by the guy behind PHD comics) gives a really good survey of what we talk about when we talk about open access, as well as addressing the money matters: the costs of publication and the roles they play in the open access movement.

What roles can we play? Well, as potential future academics, we can make a commitment to ensuring our own future publications are published in an open access paradigm. More open access journals are popping up all the time, so it shouldn’t be a difficult task in the end. But there’s also a need for an attitude check. It’s not just about making articles free and available, but recognizing that everyone ought to have access to knowledge and knowledge media. Keep that in mind when you’re pricing out your next paper.

Have any questions or thoughts on the Open Access movement?
Leave them in the comments below!

UC Does Rocky Horror Picture Show

This past Wednesday I attended the UC Follies Rocky Horror Picture Show Shadow Cast presented by the UCLit.  Although I’ve seen Rocky Horror Picture Show many-a-times, I’ve never actually been to a live performance or interactive screening of it.  I’ve heard how fun it can be, getting to throw rice onto the stage or yell things back to the cast, but nothing prepared me for the night of shenanigans the Follies had in store for us.

I think a part of me was still expecting things to be toned down the way they were in high school.  They couldn’t possibly re-enact every provocative scene from Rocky Horror… could they? 

Two Photo Set: Photo on the left is of a man standing on a table with a movie projector in the background. He is naked except for a small blue speedo and bandages across his chest. He has a crazy look in his eyes and has just been "created" by the mad scientist. Photo on the Right: one of the party-goer characters being thrown into the air in the middle of a dance routine.

Oh my naive, naive mind. 

To start off the night, my best friend and I came dressed as the main character duo of Brad and Janet – gaining ourselves entrance into the intermission costume contest along the way. The University College JCR was packed full of people in costumes enjoying food and drinks, and discussing all the insider secrets of an interactive Rocky Horror show.

Photo of boy and girl staring at each other seductively, posing heavily for the camera. Man is dressed in a lab coat and white briefs with slicked back hair and nerdy glasses. The girl is hidden behind a large red bed sheet.

My friend Matt and I dressed as our very best interpretations of Janet and Brad!

At 9:30 the lights dimmed, and the show began.  I actually didn’t understand what a shadow cast was until the show had began, but essentially the UC Follies acted in the foreground while the movie played in the background.

Two picture set: Picture on the right is of characters Rocky and Janet laying in bed together. The second picture is of Janet after her "transformation" performing the final number.

At the beginning of the show you could buy a “kit”, the purchase of which went to support the chosen organization SKETCH.  The kit included all of the things you would need to interact with the show such as rope, a sponge, and newspaper.  The narrator behind the screen would announce to the crowd when to get their object ready, and on cue from a line in the show, we would throw the object into the air or out onto the stage.  The first opportunity to use this arose when Janet and Brad were stuck out in the rain, and the chorus came around spraying the audience with water unless you put the newspaper over your head.

The cast was absolutely amazing, and the production was hilarious.  They had the crowd (myself included) laughing, gasping, and even singing and dancing along at some points. The characters would walk through the aisles, dancing with audience members and eliciting involvement, all while staying perfectly in character.

Girl dressed in outlandish costume of leather and fishnets with largely teased hair and over-the-top makeup, throwing her hands in the air dancing.

The cast leading us in the Time Warp dance!

The whole night was a perfect break from midterm stress, and definitely an amazing first Rocky Horror experience.  The UC follies do a variety of performances throughout the year, including musicals such as this, as well as dramas and improv nights.  Any member of University College can join and exercise their acting muscles, or just come along and view one of their shows.  Check out more pictures from the night, and find out more about the UC Follies, at ucfolliestheatre.ca

Mythbusters: Teaching Assistant Edition.

Last week, we shared a moment about tutorials, and briefly mentioned that they are usually run by Teaching Assistants (TAs). What exactly a TA is can be elusive to most students, and I think it’s important to spend a few minutes together this week to talk about TAs and bust some myths.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been meeting with some of the folks at the Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation (CTSI) and the Teaching Assistant’s Training Program (TATP), and students and TAs, to find out what exactly is the deal with TAs. So, without further ado, onto the mythbusting:

           1. TAs are Good Bags Screenshot of a google search, where "Teaching Assistants are" is autocompleted as "Good bags" and "Great bag"

Contrary to popular belief, most TAs are actually human beings, and most of those are graduate students at the university.

2. TAs are only there for the money It’s true that TAs get paid to do their jobs (would you grade a few hundred papers for free?), and that often falls as part of their funding packages. But, most TAs are there teaching because they’re big ol’ nerds who love what they’re teaching!

Think of it this way: most of your TAs are graduate students, studying things in graduate school, at one of the best universities in the world. This means they are some of the most passionate students in the world about what they’re studying, and they probably really want you to study and love it too.

3. TAs know everything It would be great if TAs knew everything, but here’s a secret: they usually don’t. Many TAs are first year grad students, meaning that they haven’t taken many more classes than you might have. Some of them have never even taught before. The truth is, TAs don’t know everything, and are constantly worried about how to engage students in the classroom, how to answer questions they don’t know the answer to, and how to help students learn. They’re there to learn with you.

4. TAs are only there to teach and grade Nope! If you tuned in last week, you’ll recall that tutorials are supposed to be about engaging with material, not just learning even more. TAs are there to help foster your engagement with the material, and help build understanding: not to teach twice.

5. TAs don’t care whether you succeed Go back and read the last four myths getting busted: TAs are big ol’ nerds, who used to be undergraduates like you not so many years ago. If you ask anyone at the CTSI or the TATP, they’ll tell you that grad students are constantly asking questions about how they can improve their teaching skills, and how they can best help students to do better. TAs are not robots, they are not good bags: they are people who are passionate about teaching and about helping you.

So there you go: myths busted. Have any other myths to bust? Queries about TAs? Let me know. Until then, my thanks must go out to all those with the CTSI and TATP who let me pester them for this post and last week’s: Bethany Osborne (TATP Tutorials Training Coordinator), Megan Burnett (Assistant Director of CTSI/TATP), Michelle Majeed (TA; Course Instructor Training Coordinator), and Elliot Storm (TA; Microteaching Training Coordinator). See you next week!

*** Is your TA doing a great job? Consider nominating them for a TATP Teaching Excellence Award! Nominations open November 17th.

Have other questions about TAs, or myths you’d like busted? Let me know in the comments!