Purposive Rambling

the journey is the reward.

Teaching is like baking a cake.

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I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this yet, but I am teaching for the first time this semester. That is, I’m teaching on my own a course that I designed. I have been an assistant for a number of courses as an undergraduate and graduate student. And I have had a little experience leading classes and discussion sections. But this is totally different. Being in the driver’s seat, not having anyone to answer to, having to figure things out on my own. Weird, exciting, intimidating, awesome.

I am really loving it. But it can be a little scary. So we do have a faculty supervisor and an advanced grad student to go to with questions or for advice. Last week the faculty supervisor visited my class, observed, and gave me some feedback.

It was a little nerve-racking to have him there. I felt a little distracted, wondering what he was thinking as I was making my way through the lecture. But it was well worth it. It was very encouraging and helpful to hear what he thought about the class.

Overall, he gave me pretty positive feedback. He said I seemed calm and confident, which is good because I feel calm and confident, but it’s hard to say if you’re actually projecting what you hope to be or what you think you are projecting. Also, the students were paying attention and taking lots of notes. All I see is that they are looking down at their desks, but I can’t see what exactly they’re doing. So I figure they’re doing a combination of taking notes and texting or working on the crossword puzzle from the newspaper. I’m glad that’s not the case.

I also got some constructive criticism in the form of an analogy that I think is worth sharing. He said that in order for me to move from being a good teacher to being a great teacher, I need to add more exciting examples – examples that will really grab the students’ attention, something surprising that they don’t know about or wouldn’t have expected. I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes I feel a little bored with my lectures, and I’m sure the students are too. Examples would be great. In some cases, they’re hard to find, though – or at least it’s time-consuming to find them. And, if you haven’t heard, there happens to be a shortage of time. But, back to the analogy.

He said that a lecture is like a cake. First you have to build the layers. And then you have to ice it and decorate it. I’ve pretty much got the cake baked and the layers stacked up nicely. But it’s a little plain still. I need to fancy it up with some icing and decorations. But it takes time. Luckily, I’m not in a cake competition where I’m on the clock. I have plenty of semesters of teaching ahead of me. So the layers are okay for now. I’m going to move slowly with the rest. It will come with time.

But I definitely want to have a fancy cake someday. I want it to be exciting for all of my students. I want them to look forward to coming to class everyday. I want them to leave every lecture with some new knowledge. And I want something to be so unexpected and powerful for the students that it sticks with them long after the semester is over.

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Written by Lisa

February 5, 2009 at 8:30 am

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