This is my last semester of doctoral classes. There is something so satisfying in typing those words, and yet, something almost terrifying as though the next step is some primordial beast waiting for me underneath the placid surface of my graduate experiences. Hyperbole aside, I do find it disorienting to a degree to know I’m moving into the lesser known phase of my studies just as I have become comfortable with the first phase.
In any case, this semester I was able to receive permission to work alongside one of my English education professors and assist her in leading a graduate level course for the university’s MAT program. For the next six weeks, I’ll work with Dr. Jennifer Dail to observe and participate in a course that offers students a chance to consider literature studies in various contexts as they prepare to enter the classroom full time. As of last night, we completed week one of the course.
I wanted to take this on as my last elective and as a directed study in order to get some experience at teaching and planning a college-level course. I am not convinced my future is in teaching at the university level; however, I want to leave the door open. After all, I chose an EdD program in part to avoid the mysticism and concern of having to move wherever a PhD job opens up. (My wife and I had discussed early on that we were not looking to leave Georgia.) Still, I can certainly see myself possibly teaching at a local university at some point. Who knows? If I’ve learned anything from the last two and half years, it is that I have no clue what opportunities will open up or when. You just try your best to be ready for them as they come.
Like with beginning any new endeavor, I was certainly nervous on day one. I’m not any older than the students I was going to help serve and several are older than I am. I only bring some experience to the table and my own graduate studies. I didn’t know how they would take me up as additional instructor. I pleased to find they were completely amenable to my presence, and I get the vibe they appreciate me being around thus far. They showed up this past Monday ready to learn and engage in the class; you really cannot ask for more as a teacher.
Having Dr. Dail take the lead on the class helps of course. The university isn’t set up to have me truly be considered a co-instructor of the course, so I get to almost relive my student teaching experience from eight years plus years ago. Right now I’m doing plenty of observing and interjecting when there seems to be space for me to be helpful in discussion. The most engaging activity I led was a discussion over a few chapters students were to have read. Outside of a few students not chiming in, I consider the discussion as a triumph and worthwhile. The experience was good for me as it basically came up last minute as Dr. Dail asked if I wanted to lead the discussion. I was hesitant at first–a little caught of guard–but when she asked me a second time, I knew I should accept the opportunity being afforded to me. I am really pleased that I did not cower at the chance to take on more of instructor role. I can only learn and be any good at if I actually engage in the activities necessary of a professor.
Looking at next week, I am working to help be more active in the planning aspect of the course as well as lead more discussions or activities. I have already learned to some degree that a classroom at almost any level has similarities. The difference maybe at this level is there is a clear motivation to complete a degree and prepare for a new occupation these students have chosen. Still, personalities must be managed, and students come in with needs as adults just as teenagers might.
I predict I’ll post on this experience at least two more times. I would like to reflect on the process and experiences both about midway through the semester and once it has been wrapped up. Hopefully, I’ll have more insightful reflection on the process and experience in a few weeks.