Though I can hardly believe it’s true, I’ve finished an entire semester of teaching on campus. This means that I’ve completed an entire undergraduate term and two grad school terms (the regular semester is split into two 7-8 week terms) in person, rather than the online classes that I’ve been accustomed to.
It turns out that my experience has been completely unlike what I expected… in some very good ways.
First, I can say that while I was nervous about teaching in person — though many people don’t realize this, I’m actually very shy about public speaking — it’s turned out to be great overall. There’s much more of a performative aspect than I was expecting… I try harder to be interesting, to be compelling, even to be funny. Hell, I want these students to like me. It’s silly, I know, but it motivates me to make an effort, which in this case is a good thing.
I was particularly concerned going in that the undergrads — most of them 19-20 years old — would fit the stereotype of the entitled, sullen slackers that old people like me tend to think of when the subject of “damn kids these days” comes to mind. I’ve been delighted to find that these kids are almost all polite, respectful, and engaged in class. They ask good questions, they offer answers to mine, and they’re genuinely curious about the topics we’re learning about.
I was also a bit concerned about being the new faculty member joining an existing group, but it turns out that I needn’t have worried. There are ten new faculty members in the College of Business and Management, and there were only twenty or so previously. The new blood is on track to outnumber the old guard before long.
The best part for me has been the reaction from [most of the] students. My teaching evaluations from the two grad terms and the full undergrad term were [in almost every case] absolutely glowing. Many of them mentioned something along the lines of “no other professor has ever made me work so much” but followed that up quickly with something along the lines of “I learned more in this class than in any of my other classes”. (And the literally two-or-three truly negative reviews are easily attributable to specific students, and they’re students about whom I have zero concerns about my teaching performance.)
I’m always nervous, waiting for teaching evaluations to come back… I was particularly nervous for these, because teaching on campus was new for me. And getting the results back, with lots and lots of comments about how much I clearly care about my students and want to help them, has been so extremely validating.
I’m starting to suspect that I might be good at this, y’all.