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.
Part Three highlights three key takeaways that I have that new professors will benefit from considering. Try reflecting on them and post your own takeaways too.
What is worse than making mistakes? Not learning from them!. Takeaways from a life’s milestone gives the experience a concrete meaning.
The following takeaways are rocks of memory from the past academic year. These are time capsules that capture my view of teaching and the academe as a whole.
Informal experience can result to formal learning.
I had no experience in formal teaching or training before. All my past job opportunities were desk and field research jobs where I was either outdoors for data gathering or indoors for information processing. I seldom had the opportunity to share about these fieldwork experiences in a setting like what I am able to do in the classroom.
Since I had no experience teaching, I had to learn much quickly. I was blessed that I was able to participate in the Teaching Advancement Seminar. In it, I learned about the basics of being a professor: syllabus and test construction, teacher-student interaction among others.
My fieldwork and desk job experiences proved to be useful. Interacting with complete strangers during fieldwork prepared me for looking at non-verbal cues on students. My desk job has also helped me with the most boring part of teaching: encoding grades.
Being a professor is more a heart profession than a mind profession.
The mind versus the heart. I have a syllabus contract that states “no grade of Incomplete will be given at the end of the semester,” yet consideration abounded for students who were failing because of special reasons. I quickly learned that at the university students are priority number one.
In my first set of evaluations, the most recurring comment is that I required much from students. What I saw as manageable was unimaginable for some of them.
I had the best intention: to simulate daily job requirements for undergraduate students. But it is here that I made a mistake. They were students. They had more bosses than the typical employee. And if all of these bosses thought like me, undergraduate students will be like working five to six jobs.
So I had to adjust. I removed a requirement and incorporated its objectives into another that I see as also high-impact. Not only did my evaluation improve, students also had more time to focus deeper.
The past is a present for the future.
The old adage sums it up, “Insanity is doing something the same way twice and expecting different results.” The first semester was trial-and-error. The second semester was adjustment period.
The habit of journal writing was a gift. I took good and bad notes of the good and bad in every class, task, meeting, and event. I did not want to repeat the same mistakes. I also needed to refine my great accomplishments.
Reflection notes helped in adjusting the class session immediately, preventing a repeat of the error in following classes. Instructional plans were a staple for each class I handled. Immediate class reflections resulted to less stressful class preparation.
The top recurring lesson from my reflections is undeniable: start every class with a group activity. An active classroom recitation almost always follows.
Protect research time.
As a professor, I needed to check four areas of responsibility: teaching, research, extension, and service. Because I handled two courses, I had to prepare two sets of lectures every week.
My first semester was a teaching semester: all 12 units of my faculty load were dedicated to courses. The primary gap I had in my first semester was limiting time in lecture preparation.
Godsent articles advised that a first-time teacher will prepare a lecture for four hours per one hour of teaching. I exceeded the four hours. I also had to bring home work – refining lectures at home after office hours.
My weekly schedule already consisted of at least twelve hours of teaching already. Add to this the four hours of lecture preparation required for each hour of teaching and I have no more time for the other three areas. I had to be wise, and wise people seek advice.
Time management is only effective when time does not manage you. “I must manage it,” I told myself. This resulted to a principle in the second semester: limited lecture preparation time. Because of the need for imposed research time, I declared a Research Day. This Research Day helped produce two journal article drafts and three conference paper submissions.
When opportunity knocks, run to the door and open it!
Opportunity knocked, I let it in, and it gave me success. A member of our faculty left before the second semester. In his departure, a course that only he teaches was delegated to me. I was scared!
It was a computation and statistics course; I was only in my second semester of teaching and I have not been conducting research and projects relevant to the course.
Yet, I accepted the challenge and the fruit was quick! I used the knowledge and practice from preparing lectures in this new course to review for my licensure exam!
Self-Rating of My First Teaching Year
At the end of each class presentation, I ask my students to rate the assigned group as part of class evaluation.
Now, on a scale of 1-10. how will I rate my first year of teaching?
Generally, I looked forward to every class meeting. Every class meeting was an opportunity to interact with young minds who had different ways of thinking and expressing themselves. Different personalities needed flexible approaches.
The reason I set out to teach was to satisfy my personal curiosity: I wanted to know if I will pass as a good teacher. I had times when I felt that I discounted students because of failure to prepare enough for the lesson the next day.
However, the evaluation results from students were overwhelming. Besides the burden of requirements, majority of students are consistent in rating me as “Among The Best” professors.
Of course, there are a few students see me as “Among The Worst” but I know that everyone cannot be pleased. I am satisfied in those who recommend me as a teacher even with my “heavy” load of requirements.
“it all begins with the first step.”
My feet are already inside the gates of the academe. I hope to make the most of my time! Hopefully within Year 2, you will read more about research and my first publication!
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