Being a teacher has been my dream job since I was 5, and I’ve been lucky enough to land my dream job; I’ve worked my way up the social ladder and struggled a lot before I got my current title as a college professor. While I was doing my master’s and Ph.D., I was working as a high school teacher, and let me tell you, those two are similar but also can’t compare to each other. Working with older and more mature people is great and all, but I wish I knew what I was getting into prior to starting this job. So, these are the things that will help you as a new college professor, and they are also things you should know it prospers in this field, especially in academia.
Don’t be over-prepared
Teaching takes all the time you give it, and as a newbie and an upcoming college professor, I get that you want to be prepared or even over-prepared, but this will kill the spurs of the moment. If you start preparing your lectures in August for a course that starts in September, you’ll spend the whole time feeding said lecture, and you will scramble to find material and keep changing it till the day of. What you should prepare is a course outline and learning outcomes, assessment strategies, lecture notes and even assignment questions. I’m talking from experience; if you over-prepare, you’ll come to class and will most likely forget everything and will stutter even when you know what you’re talking about. Teaching should be fun and must be a 50/50 kind of deal; you should be prepared and be in the spur of the moment. If you are teaching a new course, then you ought to do your research and get enough background information to know what you are teaching. Do enough prep that you know you won’t be a fish out of water when teaching, but it’s okay if you make mistakes, you’ll learn from them.
Okay, this might be easier said than done, but it is the name of the game. It is essential to develop rapport with your students, and learning their names is vital in doing that, but you’ll most likely work with these people for a long time and might even have to supervise some of them later down the line. Learning 60 to 70 names at the start of the semester is really hard and almost impossible, but as the semester moves along, you’ll get a better grasp of your students’ names thanks to classroom interaction and while you read their assignments. Put a face behind the names that are on your list. This process allows you to call people by their name to ask them if they are grasping what you are saying or even address them by name when they ask a question. This makes your class more human.
An easy way to do this is to make everyone introduce themselves on the first day of class, their hobby, their favorite book, and a fun fact about this. This is an excellent ice breaker and eases them into the waters of your class. For example, my hobby is reading, my favorite book is Ocean Vuong’s One Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (a much read that I can’t stop recommending is Jasbir Puar’s Terrorist Assemblages and Judith Butler’s Bodies that matter) and one fun fact about me is that I love horror movies. This tells you a lot about a student and their personality. I also let my students call me by my name (because I teach queer theory and our goal is to deconstruct the status quo), and this also makes you develop a more personal relationship with your students.
Standing and talking in front of an audience can be really hard and nerve-racking, but this gets better with time, and with time you’ll learn to be at ease with public speaking. It takes time to get your confidence up, and you’ll have butterflies and anxiety for your first couple of classes. To be completely honest with you, I didn’t feel completely at ease with speaking and teaching at first, and I only came into myself after my first year. I’ve been teaching for 6 years now and have been teaching some of my classes and modules for a couple of years in a row now, but I still get nervous even though I’m basically teaching the same material. I think nerves are a sign that you still care about your job and show that you still have confidence in what you are teaching, and you are afraid that people might hate your slides or what you are currently teaching. Whenever I teach about queer subcultures and secret gay languages, I always fear that people will hate this because it is my favorite part of my syllabus. However, no matter how nervous you are, you shouldn’t show it to the students, and you should always exude an aura of confidence.
Be flexible and have fun.
Of course, you want your students to respect you, but be flexible and have fun because this job isn’t made for everyone, and not everyone can become a college teacher. When it comes to extension for assignments, be lenient and don’t be a stickler, I’m all for following the rules, but I’m also a person who believes that if you can help someone, then you should do it. I’ve also been in college, and I know it’s a roller coaster ride and that it’s not always a smooth ride, and this is why I give most of my students extension if they ask for it, even it is for a silly reason (I’ve given extensions because students were blackout drunk and forgot about the deadline but I know you should be having fun in college and so I don’t mind giving extensions). One last tip that I give all new colleagues is to have fun because, at the end of the day, it is your job to teach the future generations, but you should also have fun with it.
Sound off in the comments section below and tell us if you want to read more tips that might help you out, especially if you are a new professor. If you want to read more about what it’s like to be a college professor. If you are starting your college journey, have fun there, make friends, drink (responsibly), and talk to your professor, they are human beings too, and they won’t bite (well most of us don’t). You’ll see college is much easier yet more complicated than high school; it is a conundrum of its own, but you should have fun with it.