Before the summer break, I spoke briefly about being hired to teach a college class in the Fall. On August 4th, I accepted my teaching contract for the Fall term, and thus set in stone the deal I hashed out with the Program Chair a few months back. With this turn of events, you will probably see an increase in posts about teaching and pedagogy on this blog. Fear not, I am still exploring the paramedic career, but I still firmly believe that even tangential experience will feed into making me a better medic. I hope you find these digressions interesting and informative.
Having said that, I’m incredibly nervous about this new opportunity. It’s a pretty big step for me and it will really test the idea of a patchwork work history. Normally, people who come to teach will have a lot of career experience, or they have higher terminal degrees (specifically a PhD), and therefore are way smarter than me. I got the job because of my eclectic work history and my attitude/perspective; or in other words, the Chair liked me.
Now that the contract is set, there’s no going back now. I’m all-in to teach my first class (tentatively set for September 9th, but scheduling can be tricky at the post-secondary level). This means it’s time for me to plan out my lessons and start visioning how the course will fit together. Thankfully, I will not need to build the course from scratch; I will be able to start with the materials left by my predecessor (who, in a marvelous turn of events is a friend and former colleague of mine from grad school!). Still, there is a lot of work to do on the course.
What also needs some work is to figure out what kind of teacher I want to be. Here are some of the questions I’ve already started posing to myself:
- What will my persona be?
- What are my teaching values?
- How much unpaid labour am I willing to give?
- How flexible/inflexible do I wish to be?
- What style of delivery will I use?
- What is my power-point strategy?
- What are my expectations on the experience/my students/the college?
I don’t have formal teaching experience, so I’m trying to figure out who I am and what I’m going to do on the fly. There will be some wiggle room, a lot of mistakes, and some short opportunities to road test material. But all-in-all, I’m driven to figure these things out because I’m scared that I’ll fail my students; that I will be inadequate. Or worse yet, I was a poor choice to be put in front of the students. I had the same worry in grad school – by me being here, I’m depriving someone else of the opportunity to do great things in their live and career. It’s a game of trade-offs, only instead of me considering the trade-off between short term gratification and long term benefit, I would be trading-off my employment for the student’s long term success. That’s a heavy thought weighing me down.
I know I’m not alone in these thoughts. Plenty of people whom I look up to as teaching exemplars undoubtedly went through the same angst when they were first starting out. The best thing for me is to act as a sponge and soak up as much wisdom as I can.
I stumbled across one such instance of someone who is wrestling with their teaching identity. In a recent blog post entitled Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto from the Tattooed Professor, author Kevin Gannon opines on the values he wishes to uphold in order to be the best teacher he can. The post is short and well worth a read. There is plenty there he’s learned from experience that anyone can take away. I’ll certainly be stealing some of his ideas to get me started on the right foot.