About two years ago (first year of PhD), I taught some undergrad seminars. I’m not the most confident person in the world, but it went fairly well. Then, I was offered some tutorial teaching. As I drove to uni on the first day of tutorials, I had a massive panic attack (I suffer from anxiety problems) and ended up unable to go in. Uni was sympathetic, and I decided to withdraw from tutorial teaching. Fast forward to this year. New Supervisor (old one switched unis). N.S. knows I don’t like teaching but doesn’t know about tutorial debacle, etc.
Cont'd. N.S. suggests I teach some seminars related to my field – Feminist Fiction. I do. It goes well. The dept suggests I teach some seminars unrelated to my field – Renaissance Poetry. I agree. First set of seminars goes okay, although I struggle to fill the fifty-minute lesson time. With the second set of seminars, trouble starts. First, five seconds into the first of four seminars that day, I realise I’ve labelled my handouts ‘John Keats’ instead of ‘John Donne’. Embarrassment. I try to compose myself and begin. Things do not go well. I feel my confidence ebbing away, and rush through what I’ve prepared. Students seem disinterested in the group work I’ve provided. Lesson ends after 30 mins.I have to teach this same material three more times in the next three hours. There’s no way I can do it. I’ve lost confidence in my material.
Cont'd. So, I go to see the course leader and tell him I feel out of my depth, I’m struggling, etc. He agrees to cancel the next three seminars, and reschedule them for another week, to give me time to prepare. I’m now feeling like I’ve made a mistake, and should have forced myself to continue with the seminars, even though I knew they were going to be poor. Does anyone think I did the right thing? Anyone been in a similar situation? Any advice/tips on teaching poetry to disinterested undergrads?
I have some experience of teaching in further education (17 and 18 year olds) who couldn’t care less about the social science subject was trying to teach them. Some of the lessons I did were really, really bad, probably because of a combination of the students being talkative and noisy and me lacking confidence/experience.
Although many of the first lessons I took did not go to plan I still feel like a gained a lot from them. Although I’m not involved in teaching at the minute, I would definitely have a lot more confidence going back into the classroom now.
You have said that some of the seminars you have done have gone ok so take some confidence from this – it proves you can teach! As for labelling handouts incorrectly don’t let it knock you confidence. Just tell the students to cross out ‘Keats’ and write ‘Donne’ on their copy and move on. It’s a tiny error which you spotted straight away, don’t worry about it.
Everyone’s first teaching experience is ropey. Do the seminars, get the practice and without doubt you will get better and more confident at teaching!
There is a book called Teaching Today by Geoff Petty (3rd Edition 2004). It is mostly aimed at schools and further education taching but t contains lots of good general teaching advice and I’m sure you would find it useful.
Dear HopelessLoser. I would like to start from your perception of things. Your username in the first instance. If you perceive yourself as a loser, you will be likely to lose. You need to build up your self confidence. You need to re-instate positive, powerful messages in your mind. I WILL, I CAN, I SUCCEED. You describe positive outcomes in some of the sessions, when you felt confident with your material. Focus on that. You know that you can do it, because you did it! We all need to learn new things, acquire new skills, that's why you are given these opportunities. Secondly, I can tell you that with some undergrads even a bomb wouldn't work! it's nothing to do with you. Try to think about a range of little activities and try them. It's only in this way that you will find out what works in that particular group. Show your enthusiasm to the students. And remember, you are in control. You can decide how to run the seminar/tutorial etc.
I agree with other posters here, you really shouldn't let this knock your confidence too much (and you should really reconsider your username too )
I had some horribly unresponsive classes in my first year of teaching and here's a little horror story... One day nobody showed up for my tutorial and I met a student in the corridor and asked why - he said because the class is boring I nearly died of embarrassment...
Contd. But then I realised that the subject really was boring - students are never going to like every subject on a particular course so I can't say I blamed them.
Since then, thankfully, I have gotten some more interesting subjects to teach and have gotten some interested groups of students to work with and have come to really enjoy teaching.
It was originally what I wanted to and after that first knock to my confidence I thought 'Oh God this is not for me at all' - but I have to say just get 'back up on the horse' and keep at it - things will improve!!!
I'm always one to encourage people to go out on a limb and try things which they don't normally do. In your case I applaud the fact that you've persisted with teaching in spite of your lack of self-confidence. I’ve always had issues with public-speaking myself, even though I’ve done a bit of it I’ve never gotten over the nerves. And that’s how it is for a lot of people including the most unlikely individuals like Billy Connolly (yes even the Big Yin himself).
Here's my two cents – people don’t normally get over their self-esteem issues overnight, it takes time. Sometimes it takes a very long time, so learn to embrace it in the meantime. Accept the fact you currently lack self-confidence just like a million other people out there. You’re definitely not alone in this. Accept that you may struggle with teaching while you find your footing, and understand that you will likely receive criticism, just like everyone else in whatever job they’ve got. Accept that you’re going to feel down from time to time, it’s normal. All that talk in a previous post in this thread about putting positive thoughts in your head as a way to deal with things can sometimes be a form of denial or lack of acknowledgement that there is something else underneath.
So don't feel that thinking positive thoughts is all there is to it. And don’t feel as if you must push yourself to teach. Teaching isn't for everyone and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with keeping up with it as long as you’re learning something each time you get up to the lectern. There no point to torturing yourself for no reason if you’re not learning something.
'All that talk in a previous post in this thread about putting positive thoughts in your head as a way to deal with things can sometimes be a form of denial or lack of acknowledgement that there is something else underneath.' Indeed. In fact we do not know what is the underlying reason for his/her lack of confidence. Perhaps a lack of encouragement and support when he/she was a child? Of course positive thinking is not the only thing to do, nor you learn to think positive overnight. However, things are not only black and white. Nobody come to this world with a label on the forehead, we all learn 'how to'. If this person needs encouragement, well I cannot see the problem in providing some. The majority of people need to be encouraged at some point in life. My impression here is that the chronic lack of confidence would probably jeopardize other activities as well, and this is why it's important to deal with this issue. I don't think I wrote that this is going to be sorted out overnight.
You build confidence through a combination of things, including surrounding yourself with positive, non-judgemental people and learn to enjoy the little successes and build up from that. Of course, nobody is obliged to do anything, but he/she is likely to face these challenges again in the future.
On a more personal note RogueAcademic, do you always have sour milk for breakfast? Take it easy.
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