Under Construction

Last week I had the opportunity of teaching my first class ever. I have to say that I enjoyed it very much! Previously I have been under research assistantships (RA), but last semester I started doing teaching assistantships (TA). Last semester I only went to class and graded assignment and tests, this semester is the same, but I stepped in when the professor could not be present for a day because of a previously scheduled travel. I knew I had to give this class since the beginning of the semester, I did not know how I was going to teach it. I had the slides from the professor, but I could change them and add anything I wanted.

As the time got nearer I got more anxious, I started looking at the slides for this semester, the ones from the previous semester class, and preparing some I wanted to include. I saw first-hand, still, with almost all the materials prepared and having them been handed to me, it was hard to prepare for the class. The venue was an amphitheater with approximately 120 students, this was a challenge because setting up activities and engaging students would have been difficult. I did not want to just lecture and have them staring at me.

I started looking for my voice; I wanted to make the material relatable, for them to make connections to their own lives. I included several activities in the lecture, I lectured for intervals of approximately ten minutes and stopped for the activities, ending with a longer 20 minute activity that allowed me to walk around the classroom and help them more personally if they had doubts. The venue and size of the class not the most conducive for this, but still I believe it worked. I see that I want to be approachable, honest, and knowledgeable about the material I am imparting to my students. I wanted to be the cool professor that made jokes like Sarah E. Deel, but I did not feel comfortable making jokes, so I did not. As Sarah mentions, I did good finding my own voice.

All of this, is from my perspective, it will be interesting to know the students perspectives. I have figured out I really enjoyed the experience; I look forward to more experiences like this. There are things I will change and improve; my teaching voice… is under construction.

11 thoughts on “Under Construction”

  1. Nice post Edwin. I have to admit – going into a class with a 120 students would of scared me! It is impressive how well you handled it. I am curious as to what type of activity did you use.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you Turner, I have to tell you I was pretty anxious before the class, especially the minutes before. Once I started I got on a roll, preparing all the material and reviewing it gave me the confidence to approach it. The class was about project financing, the activity consisted in them analyzing how to approach the use of equity and a construction loan. I asked to work with their neighbors, divided it in different stages and so on. I tried to relate it to a car loan, student’s loans, etc. I still have a lot of work to improve on. Thanks for the comment.

  2. To echo Turner’s comment, the classes I’ve filled in for have had maybe 15 students max so 120 students would have been really intimidating! Good on you for sticking through it. That’s interesting to read you would have liked to be a funny teacher making jokes, but didn’t feel comfortable doing it. Personally, I feel I would want to be a funny teacher and make students laugh while teaching, but who knows, maybe that won’t be my voice when I get there. I’m sure, as with most things, with time we could incorporate that side of our personality into our teaching, though.

    1. Thanks for the comment Taylor; I still think I would like to be a funny professor too! I don’t know if it was because it was the first time, or the size of the class, but I decided to steer clear of that and don’t make jokes. Maybe my teaching voice is not like that. I’m sure with time and practice we could incorporate that side, make it more memorable and enjoyable.

  3. The first class you teach is always the most jittery and the most “exciting”. You never know if what you are presenting is good enough and you always wonder if you are boring the students. I have taught a number of different class lecture sizes and I have to agree that the larger ones are more intimidating. This is not because the topics are any different or that the slides change, rather I find it is the sudden realization that you have the ability to change so many people to quickly.

    The other side is that so many people are looking to you to show them what is important. Over time you can teach information, but if you can show skills and even traits that students should master too, that can make all the difference in their future.

    1. Thank you for the comment Ken, This line hit the nail with respect to my biggest fear in a class this big and even in a small one: “You never know if what you are presenting is good enough and you always wonder if you are boring the students. “ I want to make them feel engaged and want them to participate, something very difficult to achieve in an amphitheater I believe. Definitely it is an important job with a very big responsibility, we are helping to shape the minds of the future leaders of the country/world, something very humbling.

  4. Thank you for sharing your experience, Edwin! I’ll be teaching my own class next semester, and I am quite excited and nervous about it! The way you teach really inspired me! I’ll consider doing internal lectures and activities when I teach.

  5. Thank you for sharing about your first teaching experience. I had to run a small section weekly tutorial session in undergraduate, and even that was scary- I can’t imagine entering a class with so many students for your first ever teaching opportunity. It seems you kept the students engaged, and I love your idea about lecturing for 10 minutes and then pausing for activities. I am interested in hearing more about the activities you used during this class, and if you received any feedback from students or from the professor.

  6. What a cool experience. A little trial by fire teaching that many students your first class. I’m glad you found a way to still include activities even with so many students. I really like the idea of only lecturing in 10 minute intervals. As a student I wish this was a normal thing for professors to do because I often find myself dazing off even if I like the material. Thanks for sharing and I fully intend to steal your ideas once I start teaching.

  7. Great experience, Edwin! I really liked your attitude towards it, especially this mix of courage and awareness — going step-by-step, paying close attention to minimal details and fluctuations while we experience things for the first time! Thaks for inspiring me!

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