Learning my way through teaching part 2: My first day, emulating professors, and finally using those Speech 101 skills

As a graduate student in the English program at California State University, Fullerton, I’m able to teach English 101 as a Teaching Associate. This becomes an option for all grad students once we complete at least one year of tutoring in the writing center while assisting in an English class. Each student must apply and interview, then the qualified are offered a class during the fall and spring semester. This blog series follows me through my first semester of teaching and each blog post features a specific topic or issue I came across as a new instructor. 

Well, that wasn’t so bad, was it? OK, it was.

Let me explain – the class went well but it was probably one of the scariest experiences of my life. Before the first day, there was no special immersion training, it was just a full swan dive into teaching. I had no idea what I was doing except for the fact that I had been a student and had observed many professors on the first day. It was with that experience that I was able to stand in front of a class of 25 students for 50 minutes to introduce the course and myself.

If you plan on teaching, I highly recommend paying close attention on the first day of class. You will learn something simply by noting which actions the professor takes – did they come in early, late? Did they bring physical copies of the syllabus? Were they enthused about the semester or just “meh?” Did they stand at the front in one spot (behind a podium), sit down in a chair, or walk back and forth? Did they dismiss you early? Before your first day of teaching, you will probably give little thought to these seemingly minor actions; On your first day, they will come in handy.

Emulating my past professors’ behaviors was only half of the experience, however.

You know how everyone tells you, “You will gain skills from general education courses that you will use in the future!”? And you wonder, really? When? How? Guess what – you need the soft skills gained from many of the general education courses when teaching – including speech! As I stood nervously in front of my class, frozen in fear behind the podium, I remembered one of the skills I was taught in speech: moving. Specifically, I remember being told that, at certain points in a speech, the speaker should walk to a new spot, again when transitioning to another point. Granted, I moved a bit more than just two spots, but it really did help. Not only did it keep the class’s attention, but moving calmed my nerves a bit. I will be doing this from here on out.

Overall, the first day was good. My students were nervous but friendly. My nerves were under control (minus the sweating), and I didn’t pass out. I’d call that a success!

Next up: Gamification

Dianna Blake

Dianna Blake

Dianna graduated from California State University, Fullerton with her Bachelor of Arts in English in May 2015 and is remaining at the university to complete her Master of Arts in English. Once she finishes her degree she plans on teaching college-level English and literature at a community college. As a mother of three while attending college, Dianna works to balance her school and family life but finds great joy in both. She most recently published her own book, College Success for Moms.