7 Tips on How to Prepare to Teach, When You Haven’t Been Trained as a Teacher
by Ida Abdalkhani, Founder & President of Ability to Engage, Inc
I recently started teaching at my alma mater, The Ohio State University. Given the focus of my boutique consulting business, Ability to Engage, where we help companies develop innovation, brand, and consumer strategies, it seemed like a natural extension for me to teach a course on “Personal Creativity & Innovation” in the college of business. However, having experience in an area and being able to translate expertise to effectively teach others are entirely different animals–especially when you do not have formal training as a teacher. I learned several lessons through my own trial-and-errors and have some tips to share with fellow “newbies”. The seven quick tips below translate beyond just teaching, too. They can help anyone that wants to lead a group along a journey:
1) Be prepared– Students know when a teacher is ill prepared. It’s ok to not have answers to some questions you may receive, but students are looking to you for guidance and knowledge. It’s a big responsibility. Prepare accordingly.
2) Be honest– If you don’t know something, you can simply say “That’s a great question that I don’t have the answer to” or “let me get back to you on that.” Students write down and carry with them the knowledge that you provide during class. Don’t worry about “losing face” if you don’t have the answer to a question. It’s in the students’ best interests to know facts and your opinion or perspective on things–not made up information.
3) Be clear on “the how”- Most students care a great deal about their grades. They will follow your directions to a “T”. For example, if your syllabus outlines a one-page write-up assignment, you are likely to be asked “What size font? Single or double-spaced? What size page margins?” Proactively think through the details of all assignments and how they will be graded and provide this to students in the syllabus. This helps minimize their angst about their grades and gives them clear guidelines to work against.
4) Be pragmatic on what you can achieve– Whatever you have planned for your course or syllabus, take out about 10-15%. Students will inevitably have more questions than you anticipate and/or there will be rich class discussion that goes longer than you allotted time for, but that you don’t want to cut short. And, if you find that you have extra time that you need to fill, then you still have all that great material you prepared to use in class.
5) Set high expectations– Think back to your favorite classes. Chances are they were not always the easiest. Our favorite classes tend to be the ones where we evolved and saw progress in ourselves. Students want to be challenged.
6) Make it matter– Connect the curriculum to the lives of students. It’s natural to spend more time on things that we enjoy. The more you connect the material to relevant aspects and topics in students’ current lives, the more engaged they will be with the material you teach.
7) Be gentle– This is both for you and the student. Be gentle with yourself. You will have rough days and delightful days. There are times things will go exactly as you planned, and days that go haywire. Actively remind yourself that perfectionism is not the goal, but that humanism and connection are. Connecting with your students in a meaningful way can have lasting effects on students’ lives. This goes both ways. It’s ok if they don’t get an A on the test or if they miss an assignment. Of course, one may wish that a student get the most possible out of the class by actively engaging in the learning, but students are humans. They need gentleness from you as well as support to be gentle with themselves.
Even implementing a few of the above tips into your teaching and leadership style can pay dividends in more effective sessions with the groups you are leading. So, fellow conqueror, fear not. You got this.
To contact the business: www.AbilityToEngage.com