Assisting Chemistry Students & Teachers

By Meredith Mayers

Fourth period ends, the first bell rings, and students hustle frantically, trying to cram as much material as they possibly can into their brains before their test next period. Others sit around doing homework as quickly as possible, even though they barely understand the material. And many students are still in their fourth period class, asking teachers as many questions as they can before they are forced out of the classroom by the incoming fifth period students, just trying to understand the confusing material they learned during class.

The high pressure and academic standards at Byram Hills High School cause a lot of anxiety for many students who are trying to succeed. From back to back tests followed by after school meetings with teachers for extra help, and often an extracurricular activity, school days are chaotic. Not only for students, but for teachers as well, who often go into school early and stay after to offer extra help. On top of this, they have faculty meetings, hundreds of papers to grade, and for some, extracurriculars to advise. If only teachers had well-educated and experienced assistants who could help them in grading papers and holding office hours…fortunately, the chemistry teachers do!

Chem TAs, or teacher’s assistants, are qualified seniors, seven individuals to be exact, who are chosen every year to aid the chemistry teachers in regents-level chemistry classes. To become a Chem TA, these students must submit a written application, be interviewed, and perform a mock lesson. Although many underclassmen are unaware of the Chem TA program, it is very important and beneficial to our school.

Chem TAs ease some of the stress many chemistry students face. This allows students to have more opportunities to go in for extra help, as they can see their Chem TAs during office hours. Additionally, students can also easily get caught up if they missed school. The other day, a student in Mr. Lichten’s chemistry class who had missed around two weeks of school had the privilege of getting caught up during class while the rest of the students worked. This was due to the help of Sam Mayers, Mr. Lichten’s chem TA. Sam says, “It would have taken him so much longer to catch up if he were to go in for extra help outside of school.” Chem TAs are also good resources to talk to about any problem or worry one might have, as they have been in the shoes of their peers before.  

Not only are chem TAs of great help to chem students, but they assist chemistry teachers as well by helping with everyday tasks. Chem TAs substitute when the teacher is absent, grade papers, teach lessons, and even administer their own quizzes. These quizzes are called CFUs, checks for understanding, and are intended to check the students’ understanding of new material. If a student shows confusion, the Chem TA will help that student fully understand the material and prepare for the test.

Being a chem TA is not an easy job. These students must go in early two days a week, one day for their office hours and another to meet as a group with chemistry teacher and Chem TA supervisor, Mr. Borneman. If they do not have office hours before school, you can find them in the “quiet room” of the library after school. Chem TAs are there to help their students do the best of their ability. Ali Lehman, a freshman, says, “I think that the TA program should expand to other classes as well. I would love some extra help in math class.”

Being a Chem TA is an amazing and insightful experience. Students can understand what it is like to be a teacher and learn how to teach their peers. Byram Hills is one of the most demanding public schools in the country, so luckily we have programs such as Chem TA one, which definitely easse the stress of many students and teachers, also giving advanced students an opportunity to go above and beyond with their education by giving them the chance to experience what teachers do on a daily basis.