Welcome back, teachers! It’s the start of a new semester! Are you ready? Are you revising syllabi? Organizing your office? Rethinking the way you teach everything? This last one is my nemesis: I’m always trying to rewrite my classes. Every year I have these grand ideas about how totally restructuring my classes will resolve all my teaching challenges. Thankfully, I received some good advice a while back from a colleague who said that I should try teaching a class with the same format for a few semesters in a row, just to get used to the process, and to get more comfortable with the way the class works. This really worked for me; I’ve gotten into the habit now of making small changes when necessary, rather than rewriting each class and starting from scratch every semester. Now, I keep notes in my phone whenever I find something in a class that needs to be adjusted; these are usually minor things like updating instructions for an assignment, or even bigger projects like adding a new lecture or class activity. I was checking out my notes and found that a lot of my notes are more like general aphorisms for teachers, so I thought I would share a few. These are just things I probably wrote down in the middle of a semester that I thought I might want to remember about teaching. They’re not consistent, and they even contradict each other, but maybe some of these will strike a chord. Here are a few:
Learn to teach without ego.
What are the goals of the course? Is it really to disseminate information?
What is class time for?
How is participation assessed?
If you’re not likeable, your students will have no reason to listen to what you have to say. You have to be the kind of person that they would want to be like. Don’t be nervous, or anxious, or snarky, or angry. Work on yourself first. Be genuine, or at least have a personality that you bring to class that seems genuine.
Teaching has to come from a place of honesty, not fear of student failure, personal failure, losing the job, or meeting someone else’s goals.
You have to be incredibly engaging as a lecturer in order to keep people’s focus, or even to keep things from slipping into chaos.
Do you believe in your students? Do you have a vision for them that includes success?
Why do teachers require obedience?
Treat your students like the things they’re saying are important.
I hope you have a great semester! I’m off to revise some syllabi, which is what I was supposed to be doing this morning. But first, coffee.