Three weeks down and I can finally get around to taking stock of how it has been. Technically, I started taking stock last week, but this week I can finally get around to writing about it. 😉
A lot of my focus has obviously been the class I am teaching on my own up at Alma. However, I need to watch out and maintain a balance with the class I am assisting with here at MSU. It’s all too easy to shift my attention too much in one direction.
With the Alma course, two things surprised me the most right from the start. Number 1 – planning a course is a heck of a lot of work!! I mean A LOT. I knew going in that it would take quite a bit of effort, but it is one of those areas that the deeper you go, the more you realize really needs to be done. I definitely understand why some professors like to teach the same class again, because a lot of the prep work is already done.
Second thing to surprise me was my comfort. The first day I was in a panic about having to fill 90 minutes twice a week and having a clue what I was doing. So far, however, I have regularly been either covering my material within a few minutes of the end of class, or having a couple small bits left when time runs out. My plans have been fitting with the timing just fine.
Now, I’m certainly not an awesome teacher by any stretch of the imagination, but I was worried I would be starting off much worse. Thankfully, right from the start I’m comfortable enough not to freak out (but worried enough not to coast), and am actually able to start “meta-thinking” during and between classes. In other words, not just trying to teach the material, but looking at my teaching itself and how to do it better. Am I addressing all of the students? Am I holding interest? Are there better ways to present this material? etc. I figured I wouldn’t be able to reflect on my teaching (especially while teaching) until later on. Since I can do it from the start, hopefully I can improve things quickly and make the class worthwhile.
One fun story is from when Samantha gave me some teaching advice. I mentioned after one class that I asked the students about the first article they were supposed to read, and a lot of people chimed in with comments. But when I asked about the second and third… crickets chirped. So it felt like they mostly read the first article and skipped the rest. Samantha suggested that maybe I should give them planners so that they can track their reading and make sure they do it all.
Her other piece of advice was not to turn around and look at the board too much. “That’s when they pass notes,” she said. I told her that I hope she doesn’t know that from personal experience, but I would certainly keep it in mind. Now when next I teach, I will try to add in amongst the other tips I try to keep track of to make sure not to turn my back too much so they can pass notes. If nothing else, I’ll think of her teaching advice and then I won’t need to remember the tip to keep smiling.