Student Profile: Shawn Deng and the International Teaching Assistant (ITA) Program

August 29, 2018

Shawn Deng is an international student from China in the Master of Digital Media program. In our interview, he shares his experience with the International Teaching Assistant (ITA) program and how it equipped him with more than teaching skills.

Why did you choose to participate in the ITA program?
I took this program to be more engaged in the SFU community. Despite being at an affiliated campus, I have always wanted to interact with students from different backgrounds. I believe that teaching and learning go beyond education, and I hoped this program would help me communicate more effectively and respectfully with others. The ITA seminar has provided me with the tools to do so.

What did you like most about the program?
The most important pieces of advice were that you do not necessarily need to know everything, and yet you cannot let your audience or students feel they are stupid when you are teaching. Effective communication bridges us; it shouldn’t tear us apart. So finding the right approach to achieve mutual understanding is the key idea that I learned from this program.

What were your expectations prior to participating in this program?
I only expected to make new friends with students from other faculties and backgrounds, and I have gained much more than I anticipated.

What benefits to your graduate studies and/or your skills as a TA (and/or beyond) do you envision as a result of your participation in the program?
I better understand the relationship between teaching and good communication; where we share thoughts and solve problems. I look forward to implementing what I learned from the ITA program to other relevant areas.

Would you recommend other graduate students participate in the ITA program?
Yes, if you want to be understood, or you want to be a teacher or a storyteller rather than a listener only, I believe this is the program you are looking for.

What advice would you give to students who are considering participating in the ITA program?
Be open-minded to new experiences, and be ready to be exposed to uncomfortable situations. Keep in mind that not everyone is born to be a good teacher, so take the chance and let this unique program help you have an enriched grad student experience.

About the International Teaching Assistants program 

"A graduate seminar specially designed for teaching assistants and graduate students who speak English as an additional language. The seminar helps students' academic communication and teaching skills."

Seminars are free to all new and current SFU grad students in all disciplines; with new program intakes available at the beginning of each term. Registration is required.

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