And it has happened SUDDENLY…
I’d like to talk about my first teaching experience. I did not become a teacher the day I walked out of university. I wasn’t trained as a teacher. I’m not sure I ever really committed to teaching, because I felt uncomfortable with the teaching bit all the way through my degree, you know what I mean:
It was a usual after lunch discussion with my managing director with exchange of views about students and self contribution to society when it came. Why not to try to share my experience as a PLC Engineer with “new growing engineers”? What drops through the gaps is often the very challenging identity work that happens as you move from being on a permanent position to new environment. The idea was approved.
The appointed hour came and I had no choice but to go on with hindsight. My lack of confidence was pretty natural, but at that point I was a little bit scared to face my students. I introduced myself, asked each one of them to do the same and got down to “business”. It was an introductory session, so I spoke most of the lesson, asked questions from time to time. The students were well prepared – most of them had some technical knowledge about PLC. The first day was a success.
As the time went by I found the work more and more easy-going. Paulo Freire once said: “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” (Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed).
As a matter of fact, teaching it’s not only about teaching itself but also managing data, researching best practices, improving instructional methodologies. Teachers are the role models and motivators for students. The quality of their teaching has a great influence on students’ learning.
After the first week of student teaching, chances are you already know your students’ names and and the classroom atmosphere is less tense, the ice is broken. To have a successful teaching there are several key components that you should keep in mind before teaching your first lesson:
Planning and Preparation
Identify the information students need to know in order to reach the concept you aim to teach and be prepared to adjust and adapt to different learning styles.
Your objective should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. You should clearly communicate to your students at the very beginning of the lesson what exactly do you expect from them.
Context of Learning and Closure
Learn about your students so you could know how to reach and teach them. Students learn best when the knowledge they get can be applied in their everyday life. Don’t forget to use humor from time to time, it keeps students engaged and helps them focus better.
“Sell” your lesson
Get your students excited about what you’re are going to teach them. Use the board or projector to visualize things. Involve students in the process, make them feel confident. Don’t forget to speak loud and clear, explaining each step as you go along.
Once you presented a new concept and gave them enough details, your students are ready for guided practice. This basically implies some cooperative activities. Check the progress, make sure they understand what they are doing. In case you notice some students confused or struggling, stop and clear things up, review that particular issue all together one more time. The point is to make sure your students apply the concept correctly.
Students have taken notes, the lesson finished, now it’s time to move on, right? Not so fast though. Give the students some homework, let them practice more. Believe me or not, this is the most important part of the entire lesson, they have to try it out on their own, through mistakes and several attempts they will understand and remember the new concept better.
Practice your speech
Prepare a summary of your next lesson. Include the statements you plan to make, main ideas and a short list of questions you will ask. Practice your speech, pay attention to the tone of your voice, keep the eye contact etc.
The first lesson solidifies your desire to teach and lets your students see you as someone they could connect with, someone who’s in charge in the classroom, earn their respect and play an important role in their education.
I learned a lot about teaching after this course. In my view, teaching is like a performing art. No amount of reading or workshops will prepare you for this challenge. You only get better with practice.
For all my inexperience, I hope I made at least a small contribution to the students’ learning. Nevertheless and fortunately though, THEY teached me as much as I teached them.
I am proud of each of them, and mostly of the students who have initiatives and try to change something in our society. I hope to see this tradition of practical exposure continuing growing.
“Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.”
Christian D. Larson