..The Teacher In You

Hallo guys. You already know..”Sorry its coming late, yada, yada, ya.”

But honestly I have some very good reasons for the late post so I do apologise. Oh, another friend has passed his Viva. Massssssive congratulations “Dr” Kubi!!

I think I mentioned in my last post about my chapter and me burning the candle at both ends in a bid to submit. Yh, that… Alllll done! Well. In the broad sense, I am. (Shakes bum bum). I am still reading around this particular chapter because I’m pretty sure I still have much tidying up to do. Besides, everyone knows doctoral students never really stop reading lol. Having said that, the light bulb in my head has sparked a few times in the last week and I have thought of SO MUCH MORE interesting stuff I should have added to the draft. At least to showcase my knowledge to my supervisor. LOL. Never mind!

So recently, I attended a teaching programme which I want to share with you guys in this post. Its a course specifically designed for PhD students who intend to go onto a career in academia. Its called the Graduate Teaching and Learning Programme. Essentially, this course teaches you how to teach.

It can be really difficult to get onto such a programme because not all universities do it. Strange, I know. Many people end up doing a PGCert or a Higher Education Certificate course at a different uni to theirs. Of course, doing this is usually an extra cost. I would seriously suggest enquiring thoroughly at your university as to availability. This course was offered free, and of course besides my interest to go into academia at the end of my submission, it would have been rude of me to have said no LOL. This graduate course is highly condensed into six sessions – two hours each. At the end of it, it allows me to apply to become an Associate of the Higher Education Academy. This is subject to completion of a 1200 essay and a one hour teaching observation. This can be arranged with your own supervisor or maybe someone in your department.

So, Playing The Role..

I learned that teaching is a Performance. But, you have to have a passion to teach. You have to have that mindset to want to teach.. Its basically a play. You are the actor. The students are the audience. Play the role and play it well..I know that delivering a seminar or lecture to a room full of blinking eyes can be scary. I have taught a room full of students ( a few times) and the first couple of times, I’m thinking I’m going to faint from all the eyes staring at me. For those who don’t know me, im quite a small person so you can imagine the fear of intimidation! Standing in a room full of blinking eyes and little old me is trying to deliver a seminar. Kai, there is God indeed.

The key? DELIVER your performance. If you’re teaching in HE especially, remember that these students are here to learn from you. They want to be here. £9,000 is not a joke yo.

First of all, introduction..are you a learner?

So you’re about to start teaching. You have one opportunity to make a first impression. Do it right.
Get to class on time and be ready to welcome your students in. Introduce yourself. Your name. Who you are. What you do. How you can be reached. You will be spending the next couple of months with them so this information is vital. These look like really basic things but making yourself accessible to students is important. Coming in late, unorganised and then unreachable for questions will stick like a bad taste.

If it’s your first time with this class, it may be a good idea to have an ice breaker activity. Its likely they wouldn’t have met each other before so you guys will already have something in common. Get them to stand up, introduce themselves and something interesting about themselves. The key here is involvement.

During law school, Bar One, they got us to pass the microphone around, stand up, say our name and institution that we graduated from. One babe said, and I honestly quote

My

name is ….. and I studied at the University of London, Southampton..

Make no mistake, WE ALL BURSTED OUT LAUGHING. Poor babe. She was busy there forming “I’m an international student” and made a mockery of herself in the process. The person I sat next to, laughed so hard and made jokes I’ll never forget! Needless to say, she eventually became a good friend.

Ice breaker activites like that works. They will eventually feel more comfortable with each other and in class it will be easier for everyone to get along.

The Rules of Engagement

Cardinal Rule #1. Create a conducive environment and establish some respect. Ensure they respect you and you respect them. They are adults, but YOU are the teacher. It’s not easy for you to stand up and teach, regardless of the age range. They need something from you. Give yourself the pep talk if need be. Listen. You’re a PhD Student with knowledge to pass off to them. You’ve worked hard to get to where you are. You are not showing off, you are just helping them to understand the deal here. If you’re one of those shy types, grow some balls and earn that respect!

Rule #2..Establish some ground rules. Create a student constitution for them which they will agree what they can/cannot do. Agree on the punishments together. It sounds a little kindergarten, but I have personally been in classes where this has been practiced and it works. This stems out of rule number one. How you handle the respect aspect will make a difference on how effective the “student ground rules” excercise will be.

Preperations of Life..

As with any good performance, preparation is essential. I recently missed out on watching a play at the Hackney Empire. “Oliver Tweest”. I was so annoyed because I kept hearing “ah Fola it was so amazing.” The obstacles of life. Ugh.
Anyway not to digress, you don’t get an amazing play without plenty of hours practice, even if acting is natural to you.

Practice makes perfect. Rehearse what your going to teach in front of your mirror.  Rehearse in front of a friend. Rehearse in your room. Just ensure you rehearse. I don’t particularly advise to just bite the bullet and go there without prep.

Going there physically prepared is also important.  The mode of delivery was another aspect which the trainer talked at length about. I’m going to give you the condensed version.

There are many resources you can use to deliver a lecture. PowerPoint, handouts, youtube videos, the works. Spice it up. Please don’t turn into that boring professor who comes in every Tues and Thurs with the same lecture handouts. Not everyday handouts. Some days, brainstorm. Some days, group discussion. Some days…change it up. There needs to be more innovative people like me I think. But we’ll come back to that another day. I’m sure you get the general gist.

It’s very unprofessional if you go into a class and unprepared or full of excuses. Go prepared and teach them what you know!

Approaching With Care..

Your approach to teaching is equally important. You need to have the right attitude. You need to look the part. You need to talk the part. It’s highly important to keep this in mind. Don’t stroll into class in jogging bottoms and trainers – unless of course you’re teaching a sports related course.  Ever hear the phrase ” dress how you want to be addressed?” Right. Dress the part. It still comes down to rule number one. #Respect

Talking clearly is also part of it. If you’re lecturing to a large audience, they need to hear you at the back. Speak loud enough, clear enough and well enough. But most importantly, speak clearly. Let the sales woman/man in you come through. They are more likely to buy what your selling if your confident in your product. Talk and teach with confidence.

The Engagement

Another important thing is to ensure you are engaging with your audience. Look, theres no point going into a class to teach if your level of interaction with them is going to be poor. You might as well stay home and watch Scandal or something. When I was at uni, (many many years ago..ok a few years ago. I feel ancient. Ok, anyway…) I used to hate going into my EU tutorials. It was bad enough I hated the course and then I had a tutor who literally came in with a “I dont want to be here attitude, get on with reading chapter 8 in silence…” He didn’t once seem like he wanted to be there and never once engaged with us. Never really asked us questions relating to the topic. You need to keep them interested in your performance, and that is why your resources and approach to teaching is important.

Apparently, the average attention span for a room full of students is 12 minutes. So in that time, have a brief recap of the last lecture and engage them with what you have planned for the next one hour or so. If this is your first lecture with them, ask them questions that they should know the answer to. Again, coming back to idea of “icebreaking” and making them feel comfortable.

I have a question..ugh!

Even if you’re a genius, you don’t have ALL the answers. Therefore, it is ok to not know  the answers, sometimes.  You’ll lose your credibility as a teacher if you bluff your way through a question or fob the student off. If you don’t know the answer, admit to it. Collect all the questions at the end of class and let them know you will have an answer for them the next time you meet. Offer the question to anyone in class who may have an idea. It’s ok if you personally, just don’t know.  Obviously, if you don’t know any of the answers at every class, then maybe consider if teaching is really for you..? I dunno. Just an observation o.

Disruptive Students:

This was something I was quite looking forward to hearing the solution to. It’s every teachers worst nightmare to have that one student that doesn’t listen or literally has a non challant attitude to work. Its almost like ” please leave already..”
The rule here is to remember that they are adults and to treat them that way. I’m talking undergrads/masters students. A gentle reminder that they are paying  £9k a year apparently does the trick. It’ll do them well to remember that they are also interfering with the learning of others.
Pull them aside after the class and discuss with them that their behaviour was inappropriate. If you feel that there is a need to take the matter up a notch or so because of reoccurrence, reach out to their personal tutor. There is always a reason for a student being disruptive..it’s never born out of nothing.

As a teacher you aren’t only there to teach and leave at 5’o’clock. It goes beyond that and thats why I mentioned earlier that you have to have a passion for it. I don’t have much experience, but I am pretty sure that you wont get very far with a 9-5 attitude to teaching. You’re there to observe, to cultivate their learning and shape their understanding of what you are teaching them and of life..a little bit. I say this because I had one teacher who didn’t only teach me the fundamentals of public law, she actually helped me stretch my mind. I started to question things and saw beyond what was in front of me. Teachers really do play a big role with students so keep that in mind!!

Class, what have we learned today?

So the general gist is have a passion for teaching or go into industry I think. You’ll never really know if its for you unless you give it a try. Try teaching small tutorial groups and see how that goes. If you like it, take it up a notch. If you don’t..well..

I also came across a website which is helpful to those looking for seasonal teaching work. Basically, the heads of departments of some Universities are signed to it and they scout out for tutors and lecturers.  Have a look – you may find it useful.

http://www.wouldliketoteach.org

I was also invited to a post graduate conference in Copenhagen, in January. For those interested,  they are currently have a call for papers –  see the link below -:)

http://www.jura.ku.dk/english/calendar/2015/postgraduate-law-conference-2015

Weekend is approaching o. Sun is shiiining…but, British Weather is not behaving. I do not do work on the weekends, but I will be having a little peruze of some journal articles. The chronicles of life.

Stay beautiful

Fols

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