Nov 16
Advice to New Instructors
Can you believe it's the middle of November already? If you're a new Instructor teaching your first term, perhaps you're wondering, “Is it the middle of November yet?"

Hang in there. The end of the term is in sight.

Today we want to crowdsource just what new Instructors need: support and encouragement.

If you've been at this for a while, how did you make it through your first term? What do you wish you had known when you were just starting out? What constructive advice would you offer?    

Please sign in above and share positive suggestions with our new colleagues.

And to the newbies: Thank you. Thank you for the work you are doing to teach for learning.


I remember my first term. I...

I remember my first term. It was brutal. Truly, brutal. I wrote about it last year in this post:

If I was starting out again, this is what I would say to myself:

- You made an awesome choice. This is going to be a rewarding career.
- You don't expect your students to be perfectly proficient on the first day. Don't expect that of yourself either.
- It gets better, I promise. You are on the steepest part of the learning curve but it definitely gets better.
- Teaching pressure ebbs and flows. I've learned that there are times in the term that are very intense and others when the pace is slower. Enjoy the ever-changing rhythm.
Picture Placeholder: Janine Carmichael
  • Janine Carmichael
 on 11/15/2018 10:38 AM

Hindsight being 20/20, as I...

Hindsight being 20/20, as I reflect back on my first couple of terms as an instructor it all doesn't seem so bad, compared to how I felt at the time. My first term I was assigned four sections of Bus Comm 2000, and was starting just two weeks after being hired. I had never taught before and, while I knew the subject matter completely, my feelings ranged from abject fear, overwhelm and a healthy dose of the Imposter Syndrome...topped off with that other syndrome...Deer In The Headlights. Now, almost four years later, I've learned how to lesson plan and prepare, and I've moved into a comfortable rhythm.
My advice to new instructors is to take a deep breath, prepare a comprehensive lesson plan, realize that your students want you to be successful, and understand that the first year or two will be among the hardest you'll have ever encountered but, trust me, it'll be worth it.
Picture Placeholder: Harv Mock
  • Harv Mock
 on 11/16/2018 8:55 AM

A few things that may be he...

A few things that may be helpful:
- Talk to other instructors. Run ideas by them. Get their input on what works and what's helpful.
- Teaching is an iterative process. There are improvements to be made each time you teach a course. Don't worry about having it perfect the first time, but always take time to evaluate what worked well and what could use improvement.
- Don't be afraid to try new things. If it works, great! If it doesn't, there's always next time to figure out what you could do to improve the activity/strategy.
Picture Placeholder: Jonathan E Mitchell
  • Jonathan E Mitchell
 on 11/16/2018 9:02 AM

This is fairly specific, bu...

This is fairly specific, but it works for me. For every Course Outline and Assignment that I write, I create a duplicate file for myself and call it "fileName-NEXT YEAR.doc." Whenever something comes to me throughout the semester (and it happens *way more* than I think it will …sigh), I open the file and make a note. This could be an adjustment to assignment criteria, wording that needs to be improved, ideas for new lessons, etc. I've found that this workflow smooths out the planning process for the following year. Good luck!
Picture Placeholder: Oliver J Oike
  • Oliver J Oike
 on 11/16/2018 9:26 AM

No instructor is a solo act...

No instructor is a solo act. We are stronger when we talk to each other, help each other and support each other. Every one of us has likely had negative or challenging experiences; you are not alone! The best thing I ever did for myself was say (ok, maybe I yelled with a touch of panic in my voice), "Help!". My colleagues and my chair had (and have) my back - every time.
Picture Placeholder: Amanda  Le Rougetel
  • Amanda Le Rougetel
 on 11/16/2018 11:19 AM

I like that idea Oliver.  I...

I like that idea Oliver.  I don't have a file like that, but I do keep my test keys and assignment rubrics, and I write on them in bright ink as I'm using them to highlight things that I can improve for the next time.  So, more physical paper records but similar idea. 

Another thing that I did in the first year that I think was the most helpful, was to make a blank template chart of each hour I had students for the full year.  Before each course started, I sat down with the course outline and identified all aspects of the course and how long I thought I would need to spend on each topic to make it through everything to the proper depth of student knowledge.  Then I wrote (in pencil) in each day or block or hour of teaching, what specific topic I would try to have the students learn.  In my scrambling efforts to prepare lesson plans from day to day or hour to hour, I managed to stay close to on track, and able to shift or move things around as needed.  Finding that verb for the learning outcome for that hour was absolutely essential, and when I had it, I often felt immediately more prepared for the lesson, because it was about what the students should be able to do, not my performance.

Now every time I go back through that course, I look at my overall schedule from the previous year and see how much time things took and how I solved scheduling issues and it definately helps.

My encouragement to you is that all of the effort that you put in now will eventually be resources for you to use and adapt later.  What you are doing now, will make things easier in the future, even if it is not very good yet.
Picture Placeholder: Aubrey S Doerksen
  • Aubrey S Doerksen
 on 11/16/2018 12:45 PM

Within the past couple of y...

Within the past couple of years I had a student who had taken a different program of study with me from...18 - 20 years ago. I asked her differences she had noticed from her experiences with me then vs the modern one. She suggested that I was more relaxed, more accepting, more able to be flexible.

My advice to newbies... be more relaxed, flexible and accepting.

This is not life and is education. We have the wonderful opportunity to help change the directions of people's lives. What an honour; what a responsibility.

Remember that we are NOT pedagogues....rather, our playground is learners. We are not traffic cops - policing activities and attendance. We must allow our adult learners to figure out some things on their own. We allow them to find a place in their lives for education in addition to family, work, social life, etc. We are one component of their lives.

Relax, breath, do the best you can at the time you are doing it.....repeat....because next term, or next year... you get to do it all over again.
Picture Placeholder: Keith Penhall
  • Keith Penhall
 on 11/16/2018 1:34 PM

What an excellent topic, an...

What an excellent topic, and thank you to those above for sharing your insights. 

While I still consider myself a new instructor, there are three pieces of advice that I can add to this discussion that may be helpful.

1) Trust yourself.  Walking into the classroom can feel like walking into a bear den with raw meat in your pockets (especially when you feel ill-prepared for whatever reason).  The scariness is real.

The classroom is an unpredictable place, just trust that you will be able to adapt.  Trust that you will handle whatever comes up in whatever way works, for you, in that moment.

2) Care.  This links with point #1.  I don't think students want or need every classroom plan to be executed perfectly; an instructor that knows every fact on every subject and can answer every question; and quizzes/assignments/exams that are perfectly crafted, balanced, and on point every time.  What students notice is whether an instructor cares.  By "cares" I do not mean constantly bringing in chocolate, or accepting every "reason" for missing classes and quizzes, I mean an instructor that knows names, gives greetings in the hallways, encourages a supportive learning environment.  I think any action, grounded in caring about student potential, is not a poor action (even if it is not a perfect action). 

3) In my first year, someone gave me this golden advice that I would like to pass on, "do not let perfect be the enemy of great".  I have also heard, "do not let great be the enemy of good".  Get out of your own way.  Chances are the "faults" you perceive are not even faults.  What you think are glaring "inadequacies" are not actually inadequacies.  Do the best you can, if you care about student development, it will be enough.  Chill out :) 
Picture Placeholder: Lindsay Mulholland
  • Lindsay Mulholland
 on 11/19/2018 11:05 AM