If you are currently in the midst of your PhD research, there’s a good chance you will be offered the opportunity to do some teaching. While the thought of turning from student to tutor may send shivers down your spine, fear not! Read on for some handy tips to help calm your nerves, and even enjoy it!
- You CAN do it! – Most of us suffer from imposter syndrome from time to time. It is perfectly normal to feel like you have no business acting as a tutor, and that it’s only a matter of time before someone realises you shouldn’t be doing it! I am here to promise you this is not the case. I know, because I felt that way when I taught my first ever undergraduate class (well, to be fair, my nerves hung around for a good few classes after that). It takes a while to gain experience, but with every class you head up, you’ll become a little more confident. So, take a deep breath and remember, everyone has to start somewhere, even those who look like they’ve never been nervous in their lives! (Spoiler: they most definitely have).
2. Ask for advice – If you feel like you’re floundering in the deep-end, remember, you can always ask your colleagues for help and advice. There’s no accounting for experience, and it’s pretty likely they will be happy to offer some words of wisdom. It might even be useful to sit in on a couple of their classes to see their approach. If you are going to do this, remember to ask first! Teaching isn’t one-size-fits-all, and you’ll soon find your own way.
3. Prepare – It may seem like an obvious one, but remember to give yourself plenty of time to plan your seminars and/or lectures. Again, don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Sometimes, your colleagues are willing to share content, which might come in handy, especially in your early classes. Remember, the aim of any seminar is to get your students thinking and talking, so you don’t have to plan every last second. Just make sure you have to hand a back-up point or two, in case conversation dries up! Some students are more vocal and willing to talk than others. Bear in mind, some will be nervous, too, especially in their first year.
4. In the seminar… – Depending on the size of your group, you have a number of options. If you have enough students, scheduling in some group work might be a good idea. This gives the students time to discuss ideas amongst themselves, and it also gives you some breathing time! If your class is too small for this, don’t despair, whole-group conversation is just as useful. Just remember, variety is the spice of life, so try to mix it up. I always found it useful to offer some brief background information on authors/poets/playwrights at the start of the seminar, especially if they were new to the students. I found on-screen presentations especially handy, as they introduce some visuals to the proceedings, and give the class something to focus on.
5. Marking – Your first attempt at marking assessments can be a daunting experience. Remember, you know your stuff, so just dig in! Try not drive yourself to distraction over a mark here and there. Remember, if you’re really worried, another member of staff will second-mark. After a couple of papers, you’ll get into your stride. Try to be fair with your feedback – put yourself in the student’s place. I always found it worked well to first give my positive feedback, before going on to offer constructive criticism later on.
6. Be yourself – Above all, try to enjoy the process! Be as supportive and encouraging as you can, and remember, you’re here because you should be. You know what you’re doing! After a while, you’ll start to feel more confident and you’ll find you own groove. No imposter syndrome necessary!
While you become tutor extraordinaire, I’ll be here for all your editing, proofreading, and transcription needs! Good luck, and see you next time.