As some of you may know, I'm doing my teaching practicum this semester as part of my MFA degree. I'm teaching freshman composition at the university where I got my BA.
I've had very little guidance, save some advice from a former instructor-turned-friend, and absolutely nothing else. I had to design my own course, write my own syllabus, and I'm teaching myself how to teach.
It's been an...um...interesting experience.
The first week passed in a stomach-lurching blur. I don't freak out about public speaking, in general, but it's a totally different story when you're responsible for filling an hour three times a week in front of 22 people.
But after the first couple of classes I was past the being-nervous-in-front-of-people feeling. My stomach had calmed down. The butterflies had disappeared.
However, I was still left with the difficulty of not being able to fill an hour. I was laboring under the assumption that I needed to fill the entire time with lecture. Until I began to bore myself. I simply can't talk that long. And when the students were nodding off I knew it was time to try something different.
Of course, by that time I was convinced I was a crappy teacher and I was thinking to myself, "what the hell have I gotten myself into?" I had a panicked moment of doubt when I thought my carefully laid plans of the last few years were all a pile of shit and here I am in my (grmf)-ties and I've accrued massive student loan debt and it's way too late to discover now that I made a mistake.
Now, usually, I'm not a quitter. I'm stubborn. So I let that moment of panic pass and I looked at the problem logically. I asked myself: Do you like teaching? And I answered, actually, I really do like being in the classroom. I love the university atmosphere. And I like the idea of helping other people learn how to write. So all I had to do was figure out how to manage the classroom.
I'm sure this is not a revelation to anyone who teaches, but I decided to mix it up. Only lecture for maybe 20 minutes then engage the students in some kind of activity that requires their participation.
Last Wednesday we were talking about critical thinking and how it's like investigating and that the question is the investigator's most important tool. So we played a question game (not 20 questions, though I thought about that. I'm saving it for another day). And they loved it. It was a smashing success and they understood how it applied to our discussion. Someone even said, as they were loading up to leave (after the class lasted the full hour...yay!), "that was a great class!"
I got all warm and fuzzy inside.
So what am I learning by being a teacher? That I can do it as long as I'm determined and flexible and creative.
Yeah. I can do that.