THE TRANSFORMED TEACHER – Changing educational pain to pleasure
Fall is here. I have to teach. Ah, the start of a new semester! Exciting times! The air smells fresher. The sun feels sunnier. Students zoom everywhere. Everyone waits in long lines for everything. Faculty panic as it sinks in that summertime is GONE, and with it all their glorious plans of crossing off the last item on that pesky to-do list. And goodbye, beautiful summer bucket list.
Now, I understand that some teachers dive into the fall semester as if it were a swimming pool in Nirvana.
I am NOT one of those people.
Without fail, fall makes my already disturbingly long to-do list utterly insane. I have to deal with everything I had jovially put off in June, cheerfully delayed in July, and nervously ignored in August. I must also face the dreaded room of eyes and judgment. You know what I mean. And the sudden realization that I feel wholly unprepared is no picnic (because all my good intentions of using student comments and assessments and supernatural insight to revise my course never quite happened). Eeep! What does all this translate into? Anxiety and stress. On a MASSIVE scale.
I am NOT alone in this.
Does teaching send shivers down your spine?
Anxiety dreams (nightmares) about teaching are commonplace, if not downright rampant. My current favorite is written by Mommy Catharsis, and although the focus is K-12 teachers, it covers all the bases (being late, rats, non-existent lesson plans, non-existent clothes, hysterical students, interpretive dance).
But I think it’s important to mention that it’s not just teachers who start screaming in the middle of the night (or day). The start of the semester can give even the most stellar student cold sweats. Maybe your dreaded room of eyes and judgment is also their dreaded room of eyes and judgment. Mind blowing, right?
Maybe your dreaded room of eyes and judgment is also their dreaded room of eyes and judgment.
So if you can’t reframe, (you’re experiencing excitement, not anxiety), maybe you can take a step back, get some perspective, and focus on prioritizing. After all, teaching is the quintessential ‘long game.’ If you don’t get it right this time, you get to do it again next year! And the year after that. And the year after that. And so on…
Tips for the start of the semester.
But even if you feel (or actually are) underprepared, there are ways you can get your class off to a good start!
- Be yourself – a super awesome professional that has the requisite credentials and academic pedigree.
- Get to know your students. Realize that they aren’t the enemy. Even if you feel attacked.
- Let the students know you don’t view them as the enemy. Even if you feel attacked. Do this by showing, not telling.
- Let the students get to know you, i.e., that you’re an actual human being and not some pre-programmed cyborg only interested in talking down to them while flaunting your credentials and academic pedigree (save the latter for occasions that call for shameless self-promotion). Even if you feel attacked. Note that providing appropriate personal information can help create a positive learning environment.
- I did mention the personal information should be APPROPRIATE, right?
- Maybe delve into some course-related stuff. (more on this in future blog posts)
Seriously, there are a bazillion different ways to handle the start of the semester. Do what works for you. And if you don’t like how it went this time, you get to do it again next year! And the year after that. And the year after that. And so on… But the beauty in repetition is that it provides opportunities to learn and enhance your teaching skills.
The Transformed Teacher
The Transformed Teacher is a faculty member who took a bold step out from behind highly detailed lecture notes and a gigantic podium into the teaching-verse, which is a magical place filled with helpful tips, tools, and teachers.
As I learn more about teaching, I find I’m significantly better than I was before, and a lot less neurotic. In fact, sometimes teaching is downright fun. Imagine that.