From September I have been teaching as part of my scholarship. I am required to teach for five hours a week. However, this is my first time teaching and I am teaching quite a difficult course. Although I understand the material I am a bit rusty because its quite technical and not directly related to my area of research. I have found that I am spending way too much time preparing for classes and this is really taking away from my research time but I can't afford to go infront of a class unprepared. There are also no solutions provided to the classes so I have to go through and verify everything myself. Is this normal for first-time teachers?
Yep pretty much. I reckon it takes me 6 hours prep for one lecture if I'm updating something that's already there e.g. checking the information, adding to it, seeing if I understand it myself etc the first time I teach it.. If writing a lecture from scratch then it takes longer (not sure how long yet... I will find out in a few months). Teaching again the following year probably takes a couple of hours prep per lecture.
It's not so bad for me, since my contract is teaching focused so research is optional.
To put your teaching load in perspective, I teach about 120 hours (crude calculation) of lectures/seminars/practicals a year, which works out about the same as you I think? Of course on top of that, there's marking, meetings, preparation and supervision of undergraduate research projects and many many other things, which basically gives me a month or two of research time per year i.e. in the summer when there's no students.
So yeah, 5 hours doesn't sound much, but when you're doing it for the first time, it's a lot.
As someone who had to make a compliant about the PHD student teacher (didn't have a choice student rep) and a former teacher, you have to make sure you know what the subject course you are teaching (not matter you can wing that) make sure you you have a structure, ie not work through problems verbatim. Remember to break up the lesson to Q&A gives you time to breath and breaks the boredom of writing on the board whilst the students youtube for most boring lesson, no point teaching if the students don't understand anything. Also use HUMOUR, the more relax you are the more relax the students are. PS teaching isn't a science it is an art.
For tutorials/seminars I spent an hour preparing for each one (i.e., reading around the background of the topics and activities covered on the worksheet). I could have done with spending a lot longer, but I was receiving no pay for preparation, only for the face-to-face teaching.
Sometimes queries arose that I could not answer - then we would have a discussion and see if we could come up with the "answer", or I either would direct the student/s to the lecturer on the course with their query or find it out later myself and email the group.
My tutorial sheets also had no "solutions", which I hated, as I was never sure if my model "solution" was in line with what the lecturer had in mind (which could have implications for revision and exam results). I asked for solutions toward the end, as I was just getting really stressed wondering if we were all on the same page. The lecturer did this, no problem, and it relieved a lot of anxiety on my part (although I felt a bit embarrassed asking).
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