On September 6, I was standing in front of 24 brand new students, ready to give my first tutorial ever. About 7 years ago, I was the fresh student walking into the university building to attend my first lecture – and now here I was, feeling a bit uneasy to be the one standing in front of the classroom. As most of you probably recognize, I was excited but above all nervous. In the ideal situation, we all want to possess the essential qualities and skills a good teacher needs: enthusiasm, engagement, adaptability, patience, confidence, a sense of humor, approachableness, and the list goes on and on. However, in the battle of Ideal vs Reality, reality usually wins. So what does teaching look like in reality?
Ideal– A good teacher effectively juggles a lot of tasks: from preparing classes to answering emails, to administration work and grading. Besides, teaching and research duties are perfectly balanced, and there is even enough time to grab a coffee and chat with colleagues.
Reality– You are still grading the assignments from last week, while this week’s assignments are already coming in. You want to give valuable feedback to your students, but this is at the expense of your pace. Meanwhile, that conference deadline is approaching, but teaching duties always feel more urgent. Although there are a lot of better things to do after work, you spent your evening in front of your laptop to finish all tasks.
Getting and keeping students motivated
Ideal – An effective teacher makes sure that all information comes across by using engagement skills to motivate students. Being engaging and enthusiastic comes quite naturally to good teachers, and they have all kind of strategies to keep their students interested and motivated.
Reality – You have a hard time getting your students enthusiastic for academic writing or APA rules, especially on a Friday afternoon. While still figuring out your own style of teaching, and accommodating the different learning styles of your students, the use of teaching strategies is really still in the experimental phase.
The more you practice, the better you get
These are two of the biggest challenges of teaching I faced as a tutorial lecturer. But, reading through the student evaluations, I realized: I survived my first time teaching! Of course, reality was far from ideal, but it was not a disaster either. I learned a lot (and luckily my students as well) and it was a lot of fun! As with many things, the more you practice, the better you get. Let’s try to get a little bit closer to the ideal situation next semester!
Linda van den Heijkant is a PhD candidate at the Corporate Communication program group of the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR). In her PhD project, she explores the causes, content, and consequences of the media debate on raising the retirement age in the Netherlands.