Learning to Teach: some thoughts

A few years ago now, the Browne report recommended a year’s teacher training for new academics.  I thought that was really rather excessive and I still do (already spent 7/8 years training in the academy!  Only teaching for a few hours a week!  Resentment if you prefer the research side!  Would we be getting paid for this?!) but, on the other hand, I think the two days of training we get in my institution before being let loose on the students may be a little on the small side.  We actually get our teaching qualification by reflecting on practical experience rather than before we get out there and teach.

We had our two days’ training this week and while I feel more psyched than ever about teaching, I’m still concerned that I might not be any good at it.  Sure, I have a head full of ideas about how I’m going to get things across to the students (quite a few of which I already had before the training), but will the students respond well to them?  An even bigger concern of mine is that the exercises I’ve thought up won’t adequately fill the two hours - I know from experience that I think things will take up more time than they will (when writing papers, for example, I think a bunch of words will take several minutes to say, but then it takes up, like, two).

It doesn’t help that I don’t really know _what _I’m teaching yet.  I have a vague idea from a course handbook I found on the internet, but I suspect it’s really outdated and I don’t want to make a load of plans just for me to not actually be teaching that information any more.  I suppose all will become clear when I meet the course director next week, but it goes against all my instincts to be planning the lesson so close to the time - even though it’s been recommended that I do that, so as not to become bogged down in reading for the lesson when I’ve got a PhD to do.

I think the most helpful bit of the training was when a panel of six experienced GTAs talked about their experiences and answered questions.  They didn’t have the same methods, and disagreed on certain points, showing that there’s no set way that you have to teach.  While I do like a good set of guidelines, at least this means it’s not like a test with right and wrong answers that I can fail, or that I have to do something I’m uncomfortable with.

So I’m really enthusiastic about teaching and think I have some great ideas, but whether I’ll feel the same in two weeks’ time, when I’ve got my first two classes behind me, is anyone’s guess quite frankly.  I would love to be a good teacher though; as well as providing another possible career option, it would be another thing I used to think I couldn’t do, but actually can.

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About Alice Violett

Reader of books, editor of web content, haver of PhD

Colchester, UK https://www.draliceviolett.com