by Sudip Paul
I’d like to talk about my first teaching experience. It was in the Fall of 2010 – I had to teach integral calculus. I had taught before but it was always 2-3 students at a time. I had no experience of classroom teaching. So I was more than a little worried. My university had a pretty extensive TA training program which ran for an entire week. I attended all the workshops religiously, took notes, read and reread the TA manual. Still I found myself ill-prepared. With hindsight, my lack of confidence was pretty natural but at that point I was super-scared to face my students.
Anyway, the appointed hour came and I had no choice but to go on. I introduced myself, asked each one of them to do a brief introduction and got down to business. Fortunately it was a worksheet session and so I didn’t have to do much. The students were well prepared – most of them had done AP calculus. The first day was a success.
As the quarter went by I found the work more and more easygoing. All I had to do was go to the class and do a bunch of integrals on the board. So I was lax and stopped preparing the homework problems beforehand. “After all, I don’t need to prepare for freshman integration problems” – how wrong I was!
One day we were doing surfaces of revolution. I used to do them in a different way than it was taught in the text. The textbook is very formal – they set up the problem nicely and then solve it by following a specific algorithm. I tried to do the first problem but it wasn’t very easy – I had to step back and think for five minutes before the solution came to me. To the credit of my students no one showed any sign of impatience in the meantime.
I was halfway through writing and explaining my solution when someone politely asked for a clarification. Then it hit me – they are not following anything because I was doing this problem in a completely different method. I tried to make them understand but it was hopeless. What I was doing didn’t have any relation with the stuff they have seen in the professor’s lecture or in the text. So I asked them just to copy it down for now and promised to come up with a better solution next time. I was feeling doubly uncomfortable because it was a day of observation by the TA mentor.
Other than that I didn’t have much trouble with my class. It was a refuge for me – whenever I was stuck with differential geometry or algebra, I would think about the class I was teaching. It was very comforting to know that there is at least one class which I could ace.
In the class I tried to give some additional resources on advanced materials, especially to students who would stay after the class or come to my office hours. One of them couldn’t stop thanking me for telling her about the MIT Opencourseware!
My evaluations were mixed. Two major complaints were about my accent and my handwriting on the board. I am not a native speaker of English and four months is too little time to get my accent adjusted. So I knew it would create problems with at least some of the students.
I learned a lot about teaching after this course. In my view, teaching is like a performing art. No amount of reading or attending workshops will prepare you for the challenge. You only get better with practice.
For all my inexperience, I hope I made at least a small contribution to the students’ learning.
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My First Teaching Experience
Erin Park, SED 2019
I’m not going to lie, I haven’t always wanted to be in education. It wasn’t until I was a sophomore in high school that I realized that education was something I was interested in. It all started when I really started falling in love with my volunteer work at a camp that works with people living with disabilities. My experiences at that camp influenced me to want to major in severe special education, and coming to Boston University has made me passionate about it.
Though my path towards education started early on in my high school years, my first official teaching experience was not until this past summer. I got to work as a kindergarten teacher at a summer school at my church, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I have always loved children, especially kindergarten through second grade children, so I was very excited about my position.
Of course, I was incredibly nervous on my first day of teaching. First of all, I wasn’t even sure if I was cut out to be a teacher, and second of all, the thought of watching and teaching a bunch of rowdy five year olds was overwhelming, to say the least. Nonetheless, my first day in the classroom went better than I expected. My job as their teacher was to teach them the alphabet, how to spell words, and simple math, like counting. Though the learning content was not difficult, coming up with six weeks worth of lesson plans was something that I had never done before. At first, it was incredibly difficult for me to figure out what I should do for every day, but with time, the process got a little bit easier, and I started getting more creative with the lessons.
My first teaching experience taught me a lot about what it means to be a teacher and a lot about myself, as a future educator. For example, I always knew that coming up with lesson plans was not easy, so I’m glad that I was able to have this experience to prepare me for it in the future. I also learned that I do not have a good sense of time when I am teaching, so I now know to make sure to make a schedule of what will be done at what time.
As a freshman in the School of Education, I am so excited to get plugged into real classrooms soon and get even more training and insight on what it really is like to be a teacher. Though elementary education is not what I am majoring in, this teaching experience gave me a view of what it is that I could potentially be doing a few years from now, and I am more than excited to explore this amazing field that is education.
Erin Park is freshman in the School of Education, majoring in Special Education
PublishedStudent VoicesElementary EducationFirst Teaching ExperienceSpecial Education