When you’re finally set to teach your first classes at the college level, it’s both exciting and intimidating. Your students are choosing to be in class and it can feel like a lot of pressure!
The good news is that everyone wants you to succeed. None of your students are hoping that you’ll be boring or difficult to understand.
If you prepare as thoroughly as you can, getting through your first semester will be easier and set you up for success in the future. Here are some tips you can use to prepare for that all-important first semester.
Think About the Best Classes You’ve Ever Taken
Before you start your first semester of classes, it can be overwhelming to think about how best to teach your subject. Thinking about the best courses you’ve ever taken can be helpful for considering how to structure your classes and which techniques to use so that they stay engaged with the material and achieve the goals you want to set in the syllabus. Working backward can help you create your class schedule and learning objectives.
Consider Your Students
Remember that you will probably have a diverse group of students in your classroom. If you can cater to different learning styles and offer options for homework to help each student succeed, you’ll be more successful as a professor. Just make sure to set those options up in advance so that you’re not making more work for yourself and feeling scattered!
Put in the Work Up Front
Your first semester WILL be the hardest. Not only will you be inexperienced, but you’ll also have to put in a tremendous amount of work designing your courses. Most of the work you do before your first class will pay off in subsequent semesters since you’ll just have to tweak and update things.
This hard work is necessary. Put in the time and effort upfront to create a truly excellent course. This will save you a lot of time in the future and help ensure that you get off on the right foot as a professor.
Be detailed about what you’re going to teach each week, and which assignments will be due. This will help you stay on track, especially because it’s common for new professors to try teaching everything they know about their topic. Rein it in a little and realize you can’t teach everything in one class!
Consider the Workload Week to Week
Students should expect homework and tests, but it’s important to balance the workload and also realize that they will be getting assignments from their other professors as well. Varying the assignments will keep things interesting and keep students more engaged.
It’s also a good idea to have graded assignments fairly early in the course. Students will likely get anxious if they don’t know how well they are understanding the material before midterms. While graded assignments take more time, feedback is important for students.
Practice Your Public Speaking Skills
The first time you step in front of a classroom, you realize that it is pretty much like any other type of public speaking. If you’re not fully comfortable talking in front of a group of people (or even if you are!) it’s a good idea to practice your public speaking skills before your first classes begin. Also, decide in advance what you want your students to call you.
Got Imposter Syndrome? Don’t Panic
Almost everyone deals with imposter syndrome sometimes, including novice professors. All it means is that you feel like an imposter who will be “found out.” This is something that happens to even the most highly-trained and qualified people. Don’t worry, your students won’t be able to tell that you feel that way!
There’s no need to panic if you feel like an imposter as you prepare for your first semester as a professor. This is one of the situations when the phrase “fake it ‘til you make it” applies. Pretending that you’re confident will eventually help you to be more confident in the classroom.
With that said, if you don’t know the answer to a student’s question, don’t pretend that you do! Just tell them you’ll find out for them as soon as you can and follow through!
Give Yourself a Pass When You Make Mistakes
No matter how much you prepare, it’s important to remember that you will make mistakes —and that’s okay. You wouldn’t expect your students to be perfect and you shouldn’t expect it of yourself.
Give yourself a pass when you make mistakes. You will learn from them and use those lessons to become a better teacher over time. You are a role model for your students, so if you wouldn’t want them beating themselves up when they do something wrong, don’t do it to yourself!
Remember to Enjoy the Process
Chances are you became a professor because you love the material you’re working with and you want to share it with students. Don’t forget that! Remember to the enjoy the process and help your student get excited about the material.
If you can help your students have fun in class, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a favorite professor, whether you’re on-campus or online.