I just finished my first year of teaching. I think most of you know that I was adjunct professor of investments at Bethel University the past two semesters. A total of 63 students between the two semesters and no one dropped my class! Because I am a rookie, I don’t know if that is usual or unusual, but I will claim it as one data point of success in my rookie year and use it in my contract negotiations.
Seriously, I have been thinking for the last couple of weeks about what I learned in my rookie year of teaching and have come up with 5 main things:
- Teaching is hard work. This surprised me a little because I figured I could just waltz in and because of my industry experience that it would be easy to translate into the classroom experience. Wrong. I figure that I spent at least 10 hours preparing for each of the 80 class sessions I taught over this rookie year. There were a few lectures that I probably spent 20 hours each because I just could not figure out how to teach it in a way that students would understand. I believe that this is the first time in my life I have earned less than minimum wage! In fairness, I could have dialed it in, but I rewrote the entire curriculum the first semester and then made significant tweaks the second semester based on learnings the first go-around. I have no regrets on taking this approach.
- Every group of students is different. What worked the first semester, did not always work the second semester. I struggled with this. I asked feedback from other professors. I admitted that somehow I got dumber the second semester than the first semester. Experienced professors laughed at me or with me, not sure which, and then told me that every class is different. The chemistry and dynamics of a group of students can be night and day different. I found this to be true after only two semesters and this lead me to significant tweaks in approach and teaching style for this second group of students.
- Teachers are Confidence Builders. This is not something I though about it initially preparing my curriculum, but I eventually learned is a very important element of teaching. I had more examples of this my second semester and one student in particular really struggled with confidence in the first half of the semester. This student did not believe they would do well in this class and by the end of the course had not only mastered the material, but had shown remarkable improvement in confidence and it was one of the joys of the semester for me to experience.
- The Curriculum is Not The Most Important Thing. Going into this rookie year, I though the content was what mattered. This is why I spent so much time coming up with the “perfect” curriculum. Wrong. The content matters, but it is not the most important thing. Building confidence, preparing students for the work world, helping them figure out how to optimize their unique human capital and coming alongside them as sort of a life coach are the most important in my opinion.
- The pay is barely measurable, but the rewards are immeasurable. I shed a lot of tears this rookie year, and they were all tears of joy. I was able to experience in just two semesters students who achieved more than they believed they could achieve. I was able to experience students who made almost weekly progress, you could practically chart it, in getting themselves prepared for the world of work. I was able to see students who figured out who they are, what they want to be, not always from a career perspective, but the kind of person they want to be and that was really cool to observe. I was able to help about a dozen students land jobs over my rookie year and that was also deeply satisfying.
Now I get a semester off teaching this class to focus on mentoring students that I have met over my rookie year. I will be back teaching in the Fall and will probably still be a rookie!
A Boomer In Transition