Thursday 13: Back in the teaching saddle again and loving it!

You know those people who are so passionate about their jobs that they say they look forward to going to work in the morning? That even if they won the lottery, they’d probably continue to do that same gig? Well, as I was reminded last night, that’s pretty much how I feel about teaching at the university level. Yesterday I found myself leading my first class in two semesters, and loving it. I’ve been out doing the research assistant thing for the past year and I realized that part of my school malaise was related to being separate from the whole reason I embarked upon this Ph.D. journey in the first place… teaching. So for this Thursday 13, I give you the reasons I’m jazzed to be an instructor again.

1. Light bulb moments. As I mentioned in my “loves and hates” of teaching a couple years ago, my favorite part of teaching is when students “get” a concept, when the pieces fall into place, when there’s an “ah ha” moment. I’m looking forward to seeing that a lot this semester.

2. Laughter. Making students laugh. Students making me laugh. I really enjoy infusing the learning process with humor. Plus, it helps make the time fly by.

3. Staying nimble. Teaching helps me to practice flexibility. No matter how well I orchestrate a lesson plan, I find it necessary to stay nimble and recognize opportunities for change, especially when something clearly isn’t working. Not always easy on the fly!

4. Sharing meaningful content. This semester I’m teaching “Intro to Interpersonal Communication” and my favorite part is that it’s such a meaningful and important class with content that’s directly applicable to everyone’s life. Stay tuned for some posts on the topic.

5. Having fun. A job that’s fun? Can’t complain too much, although please do remind me when I’m faced with piles of grading and whiny students later this semester.

6. Interaction. Being a work-from-home research assistant for the last year has been a somewhat solitary business. I am *really* enjoying interaction with live people.

7. Not sitting. Being a work-from-home research assistant also involves a ton of sitting, writing and analyzing data. I tire of so much computer time. Teaching, save for the grading and email components, is standing, lecturing, moving around.

8. New terrain. Apparently it’s important to stretch oneself temporally when teaching. To that end, I’m leading my very first three-hour night class from 6:40 to 9:30 p.m. Whoa is it different than twice-a-week mid-morning classes! (Or twice-a-week 7:30 a.m. classes, or 3:30 p.m. classes, for that matter.) The good news so far? I can get lots developed in one session. The bad news? Three hours is a long time for anyone to sit and pay attention. Luckily, my teaching style involves lots-o-movement, and a quest to keep students from ever getting bored.

9. Chops testing. I’m starting to think that, like snowflakes, no two classes are ever alike. With disparate mixes of unique personalities and experiences, how could they be? Still, it can be quite challenging to adapt to different classroom situations… like how to get the uber-quiet class to participate or to manage a negative nelly student who drags the class down or to quell the over-talkers and know-it-alls or what to do when a student cries in the middle of a speech or when they show up hungover… I suppose the challenge is part of the fun!

10. Using my signature strengths. Last semester I audited a class on happiness and well-being and learned that people who are most happy are those who make good use of their “signature strengths.” My strengths? Writing, talking, maintaining relationships, sharing news, telling stories, being organized. I find that teaching allows me to utilize a good number of those strengths which is probably why I find it so meaningful.

11. Practicing what I preach. Whenever I teach a class, I think about how the content can be applied in my own life. Especially this semester with Interpersonal Communication, I’m reflecting about how I can practice the concepts in order to strengthen my personal relationships.

12. Developing new relationships. You know what? As much as I might complain about “kids these days,” I appreciate the opportunity to get to know young folks. I meet some cool people in the classroom, and it’s an honor to take part in their lives for a few months. Especially rewarding is when they check in months and years later to tell me how their doing, or how they’ve observed phenomena from our class out in the “real world.”

13. Learning. A teaching secret? Some days I learn more from my students than I think they learn from me. Maybe not in content, but in creativity and asking questions, and putting together ideas in new ways.

Ready to be a teacher now??


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