I had the good fortune last fall to fulfill one of my career
goals – to teach at a college or university. It’s been on my list for a while –
I started with some guest lecturing and was thrilled to teach my first course
last fall. It was exciting (and a lot of work!). It made me think about what I wished I had
known starting out in this industry and how to give my students a good
introduction as they pursue their career path.
Here are some of my lessons learned :
Use plain language – remember where audience
(your students) are coming from. They probably aren’t used to all the industry
acronyms yet (and that goes for some in the industry as well). When in doubt – make
Spend time upfront getting to know the students –
what are they looking for from this class, what’s their background. The more
you can relate the content to their experiences the better
Remind them (and repeat it again!) that
questions are an important part of learning and clarifying. If you don’t ask,
you might misinterpret or make a mistake.
Make it personal – the book is good foundation
but they retained and enjoyed information better when I related the material to
my personal experience and to things they had done/knew about.
Tell stories – let your passion for your ‘day
job’ come through. Passion is contagious!
They love guest speakers – experts in other
areas. It reinforced that you need a network of colleagues to get things done.
Reinforce the importance of communication in the
business world – verbal and written. If they need help, refer them to resources
available to improve those skills.
Remind them that being a student is a job,
requiring dedication and commitment, and that there are consequences when you
don’t adhere to requirements (such as being on time, unexcused absences, missed
assignments, not participating in group activities).
As an instructor whose primary job is not
teaching, ask for help! I was able to use on my own kids (college students) as
sounding boards for advice on creating a syllabus, rubrics, and class expectations.
Things are quite different from when I was in college!
It was a rewarding, exciting, and challenging experience. To quote Anna from The King & I, “It’s a very ancient saying, but a true and honest thought. That when you become a teacher, by your pupils you’ll be taught.” I think I learned as much from my students as they did from me. I’m already working on adding and tweaking things for the next go around!