I am now starting my second year of teaching. With this, it is good to reflect on how my preconceived notions of the academic life matched with the realities of being a professor. The picture of success is the reason to start. In this three-part article, I share the lessons I have earned from the experience. See Part One.
Part Two is an enumeration of actuality. A short detail of how my first two semesters matched with my hopes.
Reflections after the Reality
Almost a year after listing my hopes and three teaching semesters after, the realness of teaching has shown me how near and far my hopes are from fact. I have noted some reflections relevant to the hopes I have previously reckoned.
Helping students learn learning is a learning experience in itself.
Providing feedback in presentations and papers – this is my first priority in all the courses I learned. I know that despite my shortcomings, I have experienced more learning than many of my students.
Inculcating lifelong learning is one of my goals. I want students to learn how to learn. I sought to accomplish this through example. In my class groups, I frequently shared articles that I found relevant to our class, most especially in topics that have already been discussed.
Teaching is not equivalent to knowing it all, but knowing which to teach.
There is one thing that always happens when I prepare for class: I feel nervous.
I feel nervous that my slides are too text-heavy or too short. I feel nervous that my planned flow is imperfect. I feel nervous that my students will only see the wrongs in me. I feel nervous that my impostor syndrome limits me to answer questions correctly.
But, I get over it. I stand from my chair, greet students, and start class. I facilitate discussion while maintaining the attention of the majority and controlling the enthusiasm of the few.
An hour and a half goes by quickly. Moreover, there is that five-to-ten minute waiting period at the beginning of the period. Also, there is rule in our University to dismiss students ten minutes before the end of the period to allow them to go their next class.
Therefore, picking only the best concepts and examples is important in every instructional plan I create.
I learned in a Teaching Effectiveness Course that there are three categories of topics: must-knows, nice-to-knows, and extra topics. According to each learning outcome, I have to filter further which topics are must-knows. I strive to prioritize teaching must-knows.
The process gives me a pass to not be omniscient (only God is) or even an expert in the course. The essential thing is that I know what topics students will be using for the next topics.
Speaking with people is as important as speaking in front of people.
I am a confident speaker. This confidence exudes especially when I know I am the center of attention – that I have the privilege of authority. I have no problem with carrying the conversation and facilitating discussions. Seldom do I give up when students are not responding. I try to rephrase questions until students recite fluidly.
The thing I had to learn during my first year was how to carry a careful conversation with students inside my office. I know that even in my young age, I am looked upon as a figure of power.
I must, then, be wary of how I answer questions of students, particularly when they are pleading their case for absences or incentives. There is such a thing as data privacy and mental health awareness that guided me through these difficulties.
Research and teaching are like water and oil: they do not mix.
The primary reason for my application to the faculty of the University is to have ample time to publish. It is my dream to be cited formally – to see my name in Google Scholar as a reference of another study. Before this happens, my journal article must be approved for publication.
During the year, I had to be flexible with teaching preparation time and research writing time. Protecting my Research Day was the only way to submit abstracts and write a (finally) completed publication article.
I also had to be strict about deciding whether to prepare for classes or attend talks. My decision process was such: if I give a talk as an incentive for my classes, I must attend if I am at my office.
I ended up attending close to ten talks that I seriously scheduled beforehand. Because of my attendance to these talks, I gained knowledge from outside of my comfort zone.
Small wins matter in collaboration.
It was a blessing that I was tapped to be a member of an extension team for a local government public service project. Being a first-time real consultant, I was able to see the skills that I lack and the type of people who can complement me. I also determined the knowledge that I possess as strengths. These realizations are small wins, but wins nonetheless!
And because of this collaboration experience, I have the yearning for more. I hope that my time and commitment can permit a larger collaborative research project.
Reality is real.
Not all my hopes were realized perfectly. But that is what life gives us: imperfect reality.
Part Three highlights five takeaways from my first year of teaching. Plus, a self-rating of my first year experience. Follow the blog to be updated when it is ready!
In this series: Part 1