Learning from Teaching

I’ve learned many things from teaching - about teaching. I’ve learned that some students will dislike you no matter what. I’ve learned that teaching at a community college comes with its own bag of problems that one doesn’t necessarily think of beforehand. I’ve learned a great deal about time management. Maybe most importantly, I’ve learned about my limitations.

My first semester, I was given a task that, unknown to me at the time, was impossible - at least for me. With a few days’ notice, I was given two different courses to teach. I was a bit surprised that I got those courses. That is, I had no syllabi for them. I was also working two other jobs. I thought I could do it; I was excited to finally start teaching. There were some other issues too that first semester, such as the two classes being back-to-back and at basically opposite ends of the campus. Just the lesson plans themselves took up so much time! I tried getting time off at one of my jobs but wasn’t allowed to. Anyway, it was incredibly stressful and difficult. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t underestimate how much time designing a course (let alone two) takes. I mean, I’m very meticulous; beyond just the work of grading and reading essays, I was reading every document and handout and book and analyzing every lesson plan over and over again - without the key experience that would help me figure out the best way to do things. I also would probably not have worked either of those other jobs. The pay would have been considerably lower, but it would’ve helped me tremendously. (Almost forgot to mention, this was a very difficult time for me, too, because my grandfather, who I loved dearly, died and my then-girlfriend of about two years broke up with me - all within a month or so of each other. As the saying goes, when it rains, it pours.)

There are many strategies I employ now in getting more teacher-work done. I use spreadsheets a lot and have digital copies of essentially everything. I do things early. I often expect the worst. I have backup plans. But mostly I learn from my experiences and make changes here and there. That’s life. Make small changes as often as you can. Pace yourself. Prepare for hardship and the unexpected. And when you’re at the end, you can say, “Survived.” That is the human condition, no?