Friday, July 22, 2011

I've finally finished my Master's program and am looking forward to starting my first job next month in a TT position at a small JUCO. I'm both excited and terrified. I want to be a good teacher, but I don't want to deal with all the same bullshit I dealt with as a TA. So I have mixed feelings and think I should run away very fast and enter med school. Any advice for a first time "real" instructor, other than "don't care more about their education than they do?" That, and I already know to start drinking...hell, I drank as a TA...


  1. Welcome back, BB! We've missed you. Congratulations on your Academic Qualification, and your job.

    Wombat's probably better qualified to give you advice, since you are both small and female; I'm big, burly, bearded and male, so my problems are not going to be your problems. But here goes:

    Give them the benefit of the doubt without cutting them any slack whatsoever. Sounds like a contradiction, but it isn't.

  2. Nice to see you again. Congrats on the TT job. You already know more than I did when I started. I thought faculty drank because they wanted to, not because they need to. Silly Beaker!

  3. Never let them see you sweat. So when the technology messes up, have a back up activity. Be able to change gears on the fly and punt. They will not know the difference!
    Hope this helps!

  4. Congratulations on both the degree and the TT job! That's great news!

    I'm going to go with the more practical: ask people who're already teaching the class, or who have taught it in the (recent) past, for their syllabi, and for guidance in general, and, for the first few semesters, stick pretty close to their approaches, mixing in a bit of whatever worked best when you were a TA (pacing and level of content should probably hew pretty close to the existing syllabi, approaches to teaching that material can be borrowed from your TA experience). Student populations really do differ, and, at least at first, you want to fit in with the culture.

    It's also a good idea to make contact with whatever office or person offers help in making good teaching better (and, of course, to seek out training on any Learning Management Software or other software/equipment you need to master as soon as possible).

    Am I correct in assuming that you'll receive tenure based solely on your teaching and service (no research/publication required)? Otherwise, there'd be some advice about not letting teaching suck up all your energy. For a Junior College, I suspect the more relevant advice may be to watch that you don't get overwhelmed with service too soon.

  5. You're back! We missed you! and Congratulations!

    Here is my practical advice: do a mid-term evaluation with your own set of questions (Mine are usually: what is working for you and why? What is not and why?) Then, if you possibly can, change something about the course in response to whatever the majority don't like. This gives you immensely better end-of-the-line evaluations, because they see you as someone who cares about what they are experiencing, and who adjusts accordingly. And the change is usually a small sacrifice.

    Here is my less practical advice: you won't be a perfect teacher, and you won't be everyone's teacher. Nobody is either. So forgive yourself the mistakes and learn from them. It's easy to get demoralized, and that's the kiss of death.

  6. Never let them see your soft underbelly.

    And remember that these are undergraduate students, not your own professors. What impressed your proffies is not what is wanted or needed here. Keep it simple! Don't try to dazzle the students with your erudition and knowledge of complex theory. You're not the wonder-kid now; you're the instructor and you must, above all else, DUMB IT DOWN.

  7. Congratulations!

    Remember that you're the expert. When I taught for the first time I was too ambitious and expected them to learn much faster than they did...

    I also agree with Frog and Toad about the mid-term feedback. Students definitely provide more positive or at least constructive feedback that way because they can see that you do take them seriously.

  8. If your college doesn't have a mentoring program, find your own mentor. It's important to learn the college and department culture so you can find your niche. A trusted adviser is a great person to help you sort out what's what and who's who.

    Much of the first year in CC is just exhausting. I remember after coming from a 4/4 load and thinking "How hard could one more class be?" By Friday I was ready to curl into the fetal position. So pace yourself as best you can.

    At most CCs, your tenure progression is based not just on teaching (though that's the bulk of it) but also service and some demonstration of commitment to professional development. So take a close look at committees to see what you might be interested in serving on. It's far better to volunteer for something you might actually enjoy or at least tolerate than end up on a committee you hate and takes up far too much time. Also think about how you plan to continue to better yourself. Your college may have a teaching and learning institute. There may be CE opportunities from it or other sources. If your college has rank or a salary increase that's based on hours past the master's degree, consider how you might fulfill that, either through piecemeal courses or a program (second master's, grad certificate, PhD program). Your college may also look for professional society memberships, not just in your discipline, but ones specific to CCs.

    Congratulations! Welcome to the jungle!

  9. Congratulations! Ditto to all of the above, and I'll pass on to you what my first dean told me during my first formal evaluation: "I don't expect anyone to have a handle on this teaching crap until about year nine. Do your best and remember that there will always be something you'll wish you would have done differently. Make a note of it and move on."

    I'm going into my tenth year, and yup, he was right.

    One more thing: there will inevitably be a class session that you will walk out of thinking you've totally bombed it. Guess what? Even if you did, your students won't have noticed.

    Also remember that you were a very different student than most of your students will be. The fact that you've finished grad school indicates a work ethic and concern for learning that honestly, many of your students won't understand. You also need to remember that you won't always see the impact your courses and teaching may have on students. But it doesn't mean that your efforts lack value. Sometimes the lessons you'll prepare them for will come much later.

    And finally, keep your sense of humor. Especially during those infernal committee meetings...

  10. Beth, a heartfelt congratulations on the completion of your degree and landing a TT position.

    Just be your terrific self--and keep us posted!

  11. Welcome back, BB!

    Advice? Bullet-proof your syllabus but keep it short. Include statements about borderline cases being at the discretion of the instructor. Don't give make-up tests (use the final). Penalize late homework according to syllabus policy and delete all emails with questions addressed in the syllabus and in class. You can do it!

    Keep us posted, please!

  12. Whenever you feel panicked, just remember that you know more about the subject than your students do.

  13. Beth! for advice, others have suggested having a rock solid syllabus, and I echo that. You might want to do a search through this fine blog for syllabus, syllabi, and see what all comes up that'll help you head off any nonsense or snowflakerey.

    Best of luck in your new job!


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