Last week, I taught my first class of the year. My first class as a professor. A new mission unlocked! A career milestone complete! It was both exciting and nerve-racking, and I get to relive it all over again once-a-week, every other week, for the next fifteen weeks.
Luckily, I’m certain no other teaching experience will ever be like my first. Competitive by nature, I approached my first class like I do most things in life – I had to win.
That first class felt almost like combat. For weeks prior, I studied the PowerPoints, notes, lesson plans and exercises of my predecessors. I armed myself with over encompassing content, pre-planned questions, and engaging slides. I had the online course advantage, and I made sure to prepare my battle station with a shield of printed notes and books for easy reference during class. I was more than ready to take on the horde!
Then I bombed. I forgot to plug in the headphones to my USB, and for the first two minutes of class I could not hear or be heard. Mortifying, but not an absolute defeat. I forged on.
My co-professor, a seven-year veteran, began the lesson with a solid introduction and explanation of course expectations. When tagged in, I struck with a thorough introduction to natural language and Boolean searching – a lecture expertly peppered with spontaneous questions and references to this week’s readings to make sure our students were on the up-and-up.
I did run a bit over before the break. Seemingly, our students took no notice, and we were able to move on without issue. We returned to class, and I issued the next challenge- “Does anyone have any questions about what we just went over?”
A hand went up. Challenge accepted.
The response I gave to the student was probably not my best work. I answered as best I understood the question and flung the class over to my co-professor for the final leg. Thankfully, my co-professor was able to clearly and completely respond to the student – using the dialogue box and typing examples to articulate his meaning. It was absolute genius!
World-weary after my own performance, I placed my mic on mute and accepted my defeat. It was over. I had lost. Going in, I felt like a grand-master on the subject. A behemoth of terms and connectors. And yet, like Goliath, I was felled by a single stone of student inquiry.
Ashamed, I vowed to be better. Wiser. Know and see all. Anticipate every question and be ready with an answer, a witty quip, and a glittering smile in my voice that will shine through my microphone to warm the hearts of my distance students within their very homes.
A few minutes after the class ended, my co-professor and other colleagues that were listening in to the lesson came to congratulate me on a successful first class. Obviously, they were just trying to be polite. I was there. I witnessed first-hand the disaster. I was sure to read about it in our student polls.
And would you believe what these students said? They really enjoyed our first class, and can apparently do with a little less break time. Also, we would probably need to re-explain our grading scheme.
I realize . . . I can sometimes be a bit dramatic.
Class is not a combat zone. Our students are prepared to learn. I just need to be prepared to teach. There are several resources available to help me to do so (special thanks to Alyson Drake for 7 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Learning Legal Research – lifesaving guidance for new professors!). I may not know everything – I’m still a human being – but, I can be confident and engaging. Tomorrow, my students will, at the very least, get an exciting presentation and a few fun-filled exercises all about secondary sources.
At the time I am drafting this post, my next class will not start for another 24 hrs. I am preparing to engage my class anew. In anticipation, I have already begun deep breathing to steady my nerves. The deep breathing is new. I clearly need to calm down.