Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Reflections on My First Year of Teaching

I did it.  I survived my first year of teaching.  Exams are marked, and grades are submitted.  And while I still have students concerned about their results to meet with, I am finally able to breathe and spend some time reflecting on my experience.

Over the two semesters of my first year of teaching, I taught five courses, mostly for the first time.  I had more than 1000 students and around 30 TAs.  I answered countless emails and forum posts.  I assigned 32 assignments.  I gave three midterms and 7 quizzes.  I made hundreds of slides, sometimes based off of existing content, and sometimes my own.

Needless to say, a large part of this job is management — of both time and people.

It was challenging at times, there is no doubt about that.  I had to relearn a lot of the material I was teaching.  This lead to many evenings spent on preparation, especially during second semester when I had three courses I hadn't taught before.  There were times I didn't get as far as I wanted, and fumbled in class.  There were times I wanted to crawl in a hole and stay there.  But I took comfort in knowing that I would never have to teach three courses for the first time ever again.

My students were generally forgiving.  Actually, my students were amazing.  They participated in class and thanked me for my engaging teaching style.  They sent me really nice comments in email.

Sure, not all students loved me.  My style didn't suit all of them, or maybe my slip-ups frustrated them.  Understandable.  Some probably didn't want to put in the effort to get the results they wanted.  I wish I could have inspired those ones.  Maybe some I did.

The thing that makes me feel the most energized of all is thinking about how to improve for next year.  I know I need to take a different approach to teaching my arts and social science students Python.  I know I need to switch up some of the examples for my Processing class and come up with more small examples. I need to adjust how I use the animation libraries with Racket and have some ideas for how to improve the course content overall.  There's lots of talk on what to do with our second first-year programming course, and I've had fun thinking about whether we should do it in C/C++ with Think Like a Programmer.  And of course there are a million little things to get better at that I can't possibly list here.

Most of all, this past year has confirmed that teaching is what I was meant to do, and I am so thrilled to be able to come back and do it again for another year.


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