A few people have asked me about how to deal with teaching their first course. I’m far from THE person to tell others what to do. But here is some of my very quick advice. Anyone else have suggestions?
1.) Constrain yourself. I have a set time that I have to prepare for class. It is usually two-three hours before class. When I don’t do this I find that I can spend HOURS preparing. But having a hard start and stop time makes me more efficient and cuts down on my total time preparing. Right before class is great, because, well, you HAVE to be done!
2.) You don’t have to be entertaining. I find that my classes are most successful not when I come across as cool, but instead when I come across as me. So I work hard to make sure that my personality comes through. If students feel like they’re getting to know you, as well as the material, they like it. It also means that the class goes better. They feel like they have a relationship with you. So some of the responsibility falls to THEM to make sure that things go well (it’s an interaction).
3.) You’re not the first person to have taught X. So take advantage of what others have done. Ask friends and colleagues for materials/suggestions. This will really cut back on work. And people generally don’t mind, because they’d done the same thing themselves!
4.) Emphasize to your TAs that it’s important for them to take their job seriously and develop skills. Teaching matters (we all have to do it as a MAJOR part of our job). And the better job they do now, the less work they’ll have to do later when THEY have to teach this course.
5.) It’s okay if not every day is great. Every now and then (when your swamped or overwhelmed) you can give a mediocre lecture. We all do it. Cut yourself some slack.
6.) Not every class has to go from the first minute to the last minute. I sometimes end class early. If I’ve covered the material and students get it, great. There’s no reason to extend the thing out longer and longer just because you feel like you “should”.
7.) The first time you teach a class it doesn’t always go well. This is life. It’s your first time. Everyone knows this. We don’t expect you to win a teaching award in your first year!