The following students have been selected as Teaching Assistants for the Prague Summer Program, June 28 to July 25, 2008:
Melinda Moustakis, fiction
Michael Davis, fiction
Kathy Zlabek, fiction
Shannon Jonas, poetry
Kory Shrum, poetry
Kate Dernocoeur, multi-genre
Marin Heinritz, nonfiction
Paul Goff, scriptwriting
Meghann Meeusen, culture studies
The Teaching Assistants are integral to the success of the Prague Summer Program, and are at the heart of the Program’s unique structure. Each is, in effect, the workshop manager in her or his group. In the weeks preceding arrival in Prague, she or he gathers, online, the materials to be critiqued over at least the first one or two sessions of the first week, and for at least the first session of the third week. Since non-credit-seeking students may participate for either the first two weeks or the seconds two weeks of the program, the logistics of gathers and disseminating student materials is particularly challenging, and must occur during the time leading up to everyone’s arrival in Prague, when they are often least communicative due to travel.
Once the program begins, the TAs keep attendance records for the workshops, the lecture series and the Ypsilon Reading Series (Czech spelling); they also keep records of the work that is critiqued in the workshops. Because the classes are composed of students at different experience levels, the TAs conduct tutorials with neophyte poets, fiction and nonfiction writers and playwrights outside of class.
Because most of the workshops have two mentors, one the first two-week session and another the second, the TAs must coordinate the transition. Because none of the mentors is an instructor of record for grades (they suggest grades to the program director, who is the instructor of record, and he factors those suggestions into the final evaluation which includes his judgment of each credit seeker’s performance on a final essay, and on the attendance record supplied by the credit seeker’s TA), the TAs’ reports to the program director are crucial. TAs are the program director’s representatives in the workshops.
TAs in the Prague Summer Program are indeed integral to success, but they also themselves benefit greatly from fulfilling their roles. They gain valuable experience in pedagogy, managing groups of individuals being mentored by some of the finest writers and teachers of writing in the world. Of course, they also benefit as aspiring artists from having their own work critiqued by those mentors. In addition, they learn valuable lessons regarding the practical aspects of arts management. Finally, they benefit in the same sense as every other PSP participant should, from living for a month in one of the world’s most beautiful and culturally rich cities, having their own language, their American-ness, their very sense of what it is to be an artist, defamiliarized, re-contextualized.
Professor of English & Founding Director,
Prague Summer Program