By Theresa Fiani and Rita Obeid
Sometimes graduate students are required to teach courses soon after they enter grad school. Often these students have had little teaching experience and feel that they are not being supportedundefinedwe certainly felt this way at times! Furthermore, you might not know very much about some of the content of the course you were assigned to teach. The good news is that you do not need to start from scratch as many resources are available either online or in print and these resources can support you in preparing your course. Furthermore, entering a classroom for the very first time can be an anxiety provoking experience. This blog article discusses some of the supports and resources available to help you cope with the stressors and requirements of being a new teacher.
First of all, you might want to ask around for campus resources at the college where you are teaching. Many campuses provide training for new teachers through Centers for Teaching and Learning. For example, the Psychology Department at Queens College offers a Teaching Apprenticeship Program (TAP). This program helped me (Theresa) a lot! As a first year adjunct, I did not know anything about teaching psychology, even though I was pretty good at learning it. TAP introduced me to a community of adjunct instructors who were familiar with the myriad challenges part-time instructors face, such as fostering positive student–teacher interactions, tackling student complaints, learning how to avoid bias, be fair, set a positive tone for the class from the very first day, how to plan a course and write a syllabus, and many other things that, as a first time instructor, you might never have thought about or expected. TAP is divided into four steps: 1) TAP workshop, which is predominantly theoretical, 2) Observation, where you observe a faculty memberundefinedyour assigned mentorundefinedteaching, 3) Lecturing, where you are given an opportunity to teach a topic of your choice to the class that your mentor is teaching, and 4) Evaluation, where your mentor evaluates your teaching methods and writes an evaluation. I found this to be helpful, primarily because of the feedback I received from my mentor about my teaching.
Another useful course is the Teaching of Psychology class, offered annually at The Graduate Center. In this course, I (Rita) was introduced to teaching tips and relevant activities for courses I would likely teach in the future. I learned a lot from the experiences of the other graduate students in the class who ranged from first-year students who had not yet taught, to more advanced students who had taught for one or more semesters. I took this course when I was a first-year students, and it helped me develop a course syllabus, a statement of teaching philosophy, and useful classroom activities. Importantly, as part of this course I am able to observe and learn other people’s teaching skills.
Other valuable resources are the many conferences where graduate students and experts in the field gather to share their teaching experiences. Such conferences include our own Pedagogy Day conference, held annually at The Graduate Center where experts come to talk about teaching and present their research findings about efficient and effective teaching methods, and many faculty members come to share their teaching experiences. The conference also provides workshops related to different teaching challenges, such as lecturing in large classes, supporting student writing, and teaching online. Another local conference, the annual New York City Subway Summit gathers people from different disciplines and universities to share research findings on teaching and learning. At a national level, the Society for the Teaching of Psychology, APA Division 2, promotes excellence in the teaching of psychology by offering online resources and services as well as holding its annual conference on pedagogy. Submissions for this year’s conference to be held in Atlanta, GA will be accepted through June 1 at http://teachpsych.org/conferences/bp/index.php. Other national and regional conferences include the APS-STP Teaching Institute, the Mid-Atlantic Teaching of Psychology Conference, the Northeast Conference for Teachers of Psychology. The STP offers a up-to-date list of regional APA Associations supporting the Teaching of Psychology.
In conclusion, even though teaching may be a novel and rather stressful experience when you are trying to manage your own school related activities, there are plenty of resources available to support you. Just look around! And, even though we have focused a lot on CUNY-specific resources, there are likely to be similar ones at your own college, and the digital resources are generally available to all of us. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, others have been through similar experiences, so save yourself the stress and make use of these resources!