Among his many talents, James Franco can successfully become a Fascist Dictator, and Other Things I learned this week from my Students

This week marks the end of my first semester as a TA. I taught the second half of Western Civilization, from 1715-1970, which makes total sense, because I am an Americanist. But I actually learned a lot, read some new books, and had a ton of fun. My students were generally very nice, and engaged, and I enjoyed discussing our class texts with them. I handed out evaluations last week, and was rewarded with these comments, among others. I wanted to respond to these comments in particular, so here goes.

“My favorite TA I have had. Very smart, helpful, gentle and approachable. A bit of a tough grader.”

–Gentle Yet Tough Grader is my new bumper sticker. Thanks for the idea.

“She was energetic and provided a helpful and encouraging atmosphere. Keep the Bueller quotes to a minimum.”

–I only did that like TWICE, anonymous student! References to John Hughes movies are always appropriate, as you will soon learn.

“She had a great grasp of the material we have covered and was informative. However, she seemingly expected us to answer her questions, resulting in countless long awkward pauses in between points.”

–Seriously, I had NO IDEA what I was talking about. I needed you guys to answer my questions so that I could pass Western Civ…OH WAIT.

“Overall, the TA was a great teacher, and good looking.”

–A+++ to you, anonymous student!

“The TA encouraged students to think about the material presented in class historically, philosophically, and in a sociological manner—GREAT aspects that should be more encouraged in education across America.”

–Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and I are going on tour in January to take care of this. Because I have total control over the American educational system. I’m also making pizza a fruit, not a vegetable, and providing ponies for PE classes.

From my students’ second papers came these two gems:

“A right winged man by the name of James Franco attempted to overthrow the government in a coup d’état, starting the Spanish Civil War.”

I laughed for ten minutes at this. James Franco is the kind of guy who would attempt a coup, but not of Spain. Maybe of Sealand, but not Spain. Of course, first he’d have to give up his hobbies of writing beat poetry in Esperanto, and swimming with seals, but he’s certainly charismatic enough to pull off dictator. P.S. He’s also 100 years old…can he sell his secret to looking so ageless?

“God loves joking. Everything is so wonderful that no one can see the terminator just around it.”

This student was writing about the Holocaust, and I think he was talking about the Einsatzgruppen, which is not so happy. However, this is still one of my favorite sentences ever written in the English language, and I will smile on him forever for giving me this gift after 81 papers on war and death.

Next semester, I’m a TA for Introduction to East Asia. I know nothing about East Asia, so it should be an adventure for everyone. BRING IT ON, Second Semester!

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