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Adventures in Teaching

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Yesterday was the official first day of my stint as a post-secondary instructor. I am teaching a course about online marketing and SEO for the Continuing Education department.

It had been a full seven years since I last stood in the front of a classroom and my nerves had the better of me. I gnawed off every single one of my fingernails on the drive in to work. I had barely eaten in two days because my stomach was in knots. I hadn't even touched my coffee before class for fear of regurgitation.

Ten minutes till start time and my students slowly started trickling in. I stood in the front of the room, nestled in the corner with the classroom desktop and my own laptop, avoiding eye contact and rocking back and forth like Rainman.

9:00 AM. I forced myself to look up and confront the sea of unfamiliar faces. I shakily meandered through my welcome and introduction. "Tell me about yourselves! Who are you? Where are you from? What kind of business do you operate? Why are you here?"

My students began, one by one, telling me about themselves and their lives - a real estate agent, a website sales person, a beginning programmer, a retiree hoping to turn a hobby into a business. They didn't only share the details I asked for, they shared personal details about their previous careers, their educational backgrounds, their families and the fears they were facing in the technology realm.

Slowly it dawned on me. These people weren't here expecting a two-hour power lecture on the latest trends in technology or two hours of in-depth theoretical discussion. They weren't here expecting to walk out of the room as experts in SEO. They were looking for guidance, for basic knowledge, and for reassurance that they really aren't getting in over their heads.

Armed with my new-found confidence, I launched into my presentation. By the half-way point, pens met paper and furious note-taking commenced. My students were engaged and asking so many questions I could barely keep up.

It was a fantastic feeling. I only hope it wasn’t a fluke and I can have the same motivating effect on the same students next week.

3 Comments On This Entry

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KYA Icon

19 March 2010 - 09:56 AM
Nice. Any chance there will be weekly updates or something? I'd be interested to see how this progresses.
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BenignDesign Icon

19 March 2010 - 10:43 AM
It is a possibility. It was the Rainman bit that pulled you in, wasn't it? :)

It just depends on how busy I am with other things these next few weeks. If I have time, I'll write a little series. :^:
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Programmist Icon

19 March 2010 - 08:31 PM
Speaking in front of any audience can be a nerve wracking experience - especially if they are an audience of your peers. I've had similar experiences doing live talks in front of other geeks. Even if you know your sh*t, it's the stuff of cold sweat and nightmares. :) But it is very rewarding when you feel like people are learning and/or enjoying.

Recently I started teaching online technical trainings for Java developers at large multi-national firm as a side gig (apparently 5 hours of sleep per night was too much for me). I was surprised at how different it was. The tools you're used to using to keep students engaged are no longer all that useful, so you have to learn new ones. I almost prefer the face-to-face experience, although it is nice to be able to deliver a lecture on advanced software concepts in your PJs. :)
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