Reflection on Teaching ENC 1101
Today I taught an ENC 1101 class for the first time. I must admit that I was surprised at how nervous I was. I prepared the lesson plan a week earlier, and I thought that, since I had a lesson plan, I would not be nervous. Last night, however, I began to think of all the things that could go wrong, even with a plan. What if the computer didn’t work and I couldn’t display the class prompts? What if the class did not complete their homework assignments and no one bought drafts to work on in class? What if everyone left early for Thanksgiving and the class was empty? What if my workshops were boring and the students just sat there with nothing to discuss? I had a terrible time getting to sleep because I kept picturing myself, standing in front of an empty classroom with one lone student who was sitting in the middle of the classroom without an essay or anyone to work with.
Of course, none of these things actually happened, but, I’m getting ahead of myself. Before reflecting on my actual teaching experience, I am going to talk about the foundation of my class, my lesson plan. Earlier in the semester, I spoke with my instructor, Nick, and we decided that I would teach one of the classes on revision. The week before the revision classes, Nick e-mailed me and asked if I could coordinate with the other TAs, and discuss the areas that we felt the student’s needed to work on in their literacy narratives and informative essays. After I e-mailed Nick back with the results of our discussion, he asked if I could put together a two-class lesson plan based on our observations and conclusions. I drafted the two plans and sent them to Nick, who sent me suggestions and concerns about some of my ideas. I spent some time thinking about the plans and then I revised them based on Nick’s suggestions. This time, he felt that they looked good enough to use in the classroom. As I mentioned before, since I had instructor approved lesson plans, I thought that I would feel confident as I taught the class for the first time. I think that I was a lot more confident than I would have been without a good lesson plan, but I was still nervous. I got to the class early, so that I could hook up my laptop and pull up what I needed on Moodle and Word. Unfortunately, the professor in the class that meets before ours stayed in the classroom, talking and working long after his class was dismissed, and I had to wait outside the room for a while before I could go in. This had the effect of making me more nervous, but eventually I got into the classroom and prepared my computer. Once my computer was hooked up and my material was ready to go and projected on the screen, I must admit that I felt better.
As class started, I began by talking to the students about their upcoming Thanksgiving break. This seemed to break the ice, and got the class laughing. Once this happened, I launched into a brief discussion about the importance of using the assignment sheet when revising. One of the things that we noticed in the student essays is that, even when they wrote the first couple drafts, many of the students were not looking carefully at the writing prompts and so many essays received lower grades because they didn’t fulfill the assignment. I asked the class if anyone could tell me why the assignment sheet was important when revising an essay, and several students did raise their hands. I wouldn’t say that we had a particularly lively discussion, there is only so much to say about using prompts when revising, but the students were engaged in the process. Most of the class, however, was not discussion based, and we very quickly moved into groups to begin the workshops. The students brought in copies of their literacy narrative, and, using several different prompts, spent the class revising both individually, and in peer groups. I projected the prompts on the overhead screen, and before each activity, I made sure to explain each prompt and ask the class if they had any questions. While the student’s worked, either individually or in discussion groups, I walked around the room, making sure that the groups stayed on task and answering any questions. Overall, I think that the lesson worked well. The students seemed engaged and interested in the activities. My only concern was that, though I tried to time each activity and watch the groups to make sure everyone had an opportunity to finish and share before moving on to the next activity, several of the groups still finished early and began talking about other things. After class, when Nick and I met to discuss my teaching, we talked about the problem. Nick felt that I timed the workshops well and kept the class moving at a good pace, but, no matter how well activities are timed, some groups will always finish before others. Nick also felt that, overall, the class went well. He made several suggestions including the possibility of saving the assignment sheet discussion for the end of class and having the class make up a revision plan based on the prompts. I felt that this was a good suggestion, and, if I teach this class again, I will try to adjust the order of activities to make room for a small final journal activity so that the students can make a revision plan.
Overall, I feel good about my first teaching experience, and I am looking forward to my next teaching opportunity. I think that, next time, I will probably be a little less nervous, although, I’m sure that it will take at least a full semester of teaching to make the fear entirely go away.