Dear SPS Faculty,
In the blink of an eye fall semester will be here and that means engaging with students in our courses. I have been reflecting on the differences I experience in teaching courses I have taught before as compared to teaching courses for the first time. This is coming up for me because I will be teaching a course this fall that I have not taught before even though we have been offering it in the program. At the same time, I have been preparing others to teach the courses I have taught before and helping them get up to speed. I would like to share some of these reflections with you as you prepare for the semester.
In preparing for fall semester I am very aware of my own learning curve and how responsible I feel for being thoroughly informed of all the material. After all, we cannot teach what we do not know even though the expression says “if you want to learn something, teach it.” I need to know it well enough to discuss the concepts and field challenges and questions. Of course, I can always rely on Socratic methods of teaching and asking questions and for me that is so I better understand why these questions are coming up in the first place. Understanding the cause for the question helps me know how to frame my response.
In addition to mastering the content, timing and flow of the activities will be a bit of a challenge. While I have a sense of how long it will take, I need to experience it to really see how students respond to the directions, where they breeze through and where they get stuck. I have a very strong internal clock and can guestimate timing pretty well, but it is not a science. After all, humans are involved and anything can happen! I am aware of the tension between encouraging discussions amongst students and at the same time honoring the agenda and covering the material.
In preparing others to teach courses I have taught before I am sensitive to how overwhelming it can be for others to master the content, the sequencing and the timing. It is a good exercise for me to boil down the essence of the material so that there are the items in the must cover category vs. the nice to cover, in case there is an issue of timing. I am also amazed at how a fresh set of eyes on the material enhances the course. Other faculty members ask really good questions and offer their own ideas and suggestions that improves the material. Their innovations breathe new life into the course.
Good luck in preparing for fall semester. Please remember that Faculty Affairs offers so many good workshops and support so reach out to them.