My First Teaching Experience
Booth’s description of several worst-case-scenarios brought my first experience in formal instruction to mind. I knew when I was hired at a public library that my job would include teaching computer classes. However, when my first computer class came, I had not had any opportunities to observe other teachers first. There was no set curriculum for the classes, and the library was understaffed so there weren’t many opportunities to get advice from others.
My first class was Computer Basics (how to turn the computer on, use a mouse, understand basic symbols on the screen, etc.). I had a student who interrupted class loudly every several minutes by grumbling, “I can’t understand a word she’s saying.” Nothing I tried helped him to follow me better. The rest of the class was very supportive and understanding, but I still wanted the ground to swallow me whole by the end of class.
After a rather negative first experience, I spent about 6-8 months terrified of teaching. I was convinced I was a bad teacher and would often feel anxious about upcoming classes for an entire weekend before I was actually scheduled to teach. I finally decided I needed to do something to make myself a better instructor and feel less anxious about it. I began finding examples of lesson plans from other public libraries, testing out some techniques they used, and building my own materials. Eventually, I began feeling more comfortable teaching, and by the time I left that job I started to enjoy it.
My Teaching Philosophy
I was thinking about my first experience teaching quite a bit during the reading this week. One lesson I took away from teaching computer classes was that I was overly concerned with making sure I covered every single item in class and that everyone completely understood it by the end. Instead, especially in the case of computer classes, I began to see my role in more general terms. I was teaching very specific skills, but my role was really to help my students become more comfortable and confident using technology so that they would feel encouraged to keep practicing and learning outside of class.
I don’t have a fully formed teaching philosophy yet (I’d like to keep developing one throughout this course), but part of my philosophy would be that my role as an instructor is not just to pass along information, but to encourage learners to take risks and experiment in their learning, and to give them a few extra tools that will help them continue to learn and grow after the instruction is over.
This blog post is already much too long, but I will touch on reflective practice briefly. Reflective practice consists of strategies instructors can use to learn as they teach, by assessing the needs of their students before the class, recognizing what works and doesn’t work in instruction, and then improving based on that reflection. While I was already using some reflective practice in my computer class example above, my early attempts at reflective practice were a bit haphazard and sporadic. I think intentionally examining my teaching and recording my thoughts throughout the process would have had a much stronger effect, and hopefully will have a strong effect in the future.