Tuesday, July 12, 2005

...tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit...

Not that this is really new, but with the start of the fall semester rapidly approaching, I think it's timely. But isn't the foreign TA a right of passage for undergrads? That's what we always thought at Marquette.
Unclear on American Campus: What the Foreign Teacher Said - New York Times: "Valerie Serrin still remembers vividly her anger and the feeling of helplessness. After getting a C on a lab report in an introductory chemistry course, she went to her teaching assistant to ask what she should have done for a better grade.
Valerie Serrin could not understand her Berkeley teaching assistant. The teaching assistant, a graduate student from China, possessed a finely honed mind. But he also had a heavy accent and a limited grasp of spoken English, so he could not explain to Ms. Serrin, a freshman at the time, what her report had lacked.
"He would just say, 'It's easy, it's easy," said Ms. Serrin, who recently completed her junior year at the University of California, Berkeley. "But it wasn't easy. He was brilliant, absolutely brilliant, but he couldn't communicate in English."
Ms. Serrin's experience is hardly unique. With a steep rise in the number of foreign graduate students in the last two decades, undergraduates at large research universities often find themselves in classes and laboratories run by graduate teaching assistants whose mastery of English is less than complete.
The issue is particularly acute in subjects like engineering, where 50 percent of graduate students are foreign born, and math and the physical sciences, where 41 percent of graduate students are, according to a survey by the Council of Graduate Schools, an association of 450 schools."

T-minus 4 (for anyone keeping track)