First Semester Reflection
As I was preparing for my first semester as an instructor, I was entirely unsure of what to expect. While on the one hand I was excited about the prospect of being responsible for my own classroom, I was also incredibly apprehensive and often felt overwhelmed and underqualified. Although I have had some limited experiences as an instructor, this would be my first time teaching in the college classroom specifically. That, paired with the fact that I have never actually taken a public speaking course as a student, contributed to an overall sense of uncertainty of how to effectively perform my job as an instructor. In many ways, this first semester of teaching has been an unrelenting trial by fire. But even though my teaching responsibilities have been especially challenging at times, I feel that I have ended this semester feeling more confident about my own teaching abilities and am generally excited about continuing to develop my career in academia.
In the weeks leading up to my first semester of teaching, I tried to squeeze in as much planning and preparation as possible. I tried to base my class plans on my own experiences as an undergraduate and tried to channel what I had seen some of my favorite professors and instructors do within their classrooms. Of course, I quickly realized that the things that I had paid little attention to as an undergraduate actually required a significant amount of care and attention. For instance, I had never really had any realization of the number and scope of questions that I would have to field on a daily basis, and what it would feel like having to come up with an answer on the spot. I am thankful that my first semester of independent teaching was still within the overarching structure of SPCM 200 as a common course, with much of the course content already determined and managed by the Course Director. This teaching arrangement really helped my first year go as smoothly as possible.
One of the most important things that I have learned throughout this semester is something I hope to remind myself throughout the entirety of my future career. It may seem like a simple, and somewhat obvious fact, but not all students are alike. More specifically, not all students who will enter my classroom will be the exact type of student that I was as an undergraduate. Everyone has their own goals and motivations for coming to college, and these are most certainly going to be vastly different than my own. For some students, receiving a C+ on an assignment isn’t something to be concerned about, as it would have been for me, but rather is something to be proud of. Some students are truly passionate about the course materials, whereas some are only enrolled in the course because their major explicitly requires them to do so. I have had to continually remind myself of these differences in student experiences, and that there is value in each of them. Most importantly, I have had to reframe much of my pedagogy as much of my initial expectations were indeed based on my own student experiences. As I continue to develop as an instructor, I hope to keep this simple fact of difference at the forefront of my teaching philosophy.
Moving forward, my mind is already buzzing with ideas and plans to make the most of my next semester of teaching SPCM 200. But beyond adjusting my syllabus and lesson plans to accommodate the lessons I learned through this semester’s trial by fire, I hope to continually develop my teaching style. One of my primary goals for next semester and beyond is to forge a stronger connection between my research and my teaching. This semester, my own writing was often entirely separate from how I taught public speaking, but ideally I will find a way for these two aspects of my academic career to fully complement one another. Even something as simple as incorporating my own in-progress writing into course examples is one way to connect with my students further by sharing my own research interests, and to differentiate myself from every other SPCM 200 instructor. My goal is to eventually pursue a tenure track faculty position, so finding this balance and developing techniques to be an efficient and effective teacher are my primary emphases for upcoming semesters.
With one semester of teaching under my belt, much of the initial uncertainties and anxieties that I was feeling have partially subsided. I have a full idea of what to expect when I step into a classroom in this new role, and I am excited to continue my teaching and developing my pedagogy. There may always be a certain amount of anxiety, but this semester has taught me that this uncertainty is not insurmountable, and in fact is something that should be embraced.