What is it like to start teaching at a university?

Daunting. Scary. Intimidating. See what else your thesaurus comes up with for an experience that involves you standing alone in front of 20 to 376 people, who expect you to have all the answers.

When I had my first seminar, preparation took me 3 full days (the seminar was to last 1 hour). Colleagues pointed out that with current levels of teaching load, this might not be a sustainable approach for the future….. but for me, having an activity planned for every single minute of that first seminar gave me the necessary confidence to face my students. So, if you are new to teaching at university level – prepare. Overprepare, if it makes you feel more secure. Don’t worry, over time you will develop the confidence to just saunter in and decide in the few moments between staircase and opening the door, what exactly you are doing today – and still deliver a good lesson. But if you start out, go in armed to the teeth with exercies, group work and case studies!

Where to find inspiration? First of all, if you are teaching in an Anglo-Saxon context, there will probably be a designated course textbook. (Make sure you get an inspection copy early on from the publisher.) Contact your friendly representative (your colleagues will have his email or you can look it up on the publisher’s website), and ask him if there are additional resources – very often there are additional case studies, chapter summaries, model solutions, and even multiple choice question banks.

In addition, search the internet for advice and case studies. Some useful tipps for your first class are for example on this page from the University of WashingtonThe University of Standford has some advice on how to get over nervousness. And this article in the Guardian also offers some practical how-to-guide on how to get through that first lesson.

Above all – enjoy it. It might seem daunting now, but in a couple of years you will no longer think about it. Imagine yourself as that person right now and put on a performance before it becomes second nature.


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