My 1st Year Teaching Experience

On my social media pages back in August I shared my first day teaching experience and my video was full of smiles 😁 and a portion of my caption read “Today I realized that while I’m always asking God to order my steps, I must be willing to follow, willing to execute, and willing to do His will…Here’s to stepping outside of my comfort zone, removing thoughts and feelings of fear that have been holding me back from fulfilling my purpose and saying yes to things that are new.” 🔑 I am revisiting this as a flashback, as this is now the end of the 2018-2019 school year (minus summer), and I’ve made it through my first year of teaching! Not only were those words true then, but they remain true today.‼️

I remember when I initially received the message stating that I had been extended an opportunity to teach and honestly I was consumed with fear and I doubted my ability up until the very moment that I walked into my classroom. Going the extra mile, I shook hands with every student who walked through the door and while it was a nice touch for welcoming the students on the first day, it also helped to calm my nerves just knowing that I’d connected with each of them before standing in front of them as a unit. In the Fall I taught Macro Level Roles and Interventions in Social Work and in the Spring I taught Culturally Competent Social Work Practice. Overall, my experiences with both classes were completely different but awesome in their individual ways.

Highlights

My personal highlight of the Fall semester was seeing the students come together to select a local agency, conduct a needs assessment, and provide services to meet the agency and their clients’ needs. Seeing them incorporate the lessons taught in class throughout their projects and witnessing them receive wonderful feedback from the agency was awesome 👏🏽. My highlight of the Spring semester, was being able to incorporate the 2018 movie ‘The Hate U Give’ as a Case Study and seeing the students identify the social justice issues faced in the movie and reading their analyses of how certain occurrences were representative of culture and how they would have approached the case as culturally competent social workers 😉.

Seeing the growth, development, and expansion of understanding of the students throughout both semesters was amazing, and if these two semesters are indicators of what my future as a Professor holds, I truly look forward to it.

Before we move on to lessons learned during this phase let’s revisit why I was consumed with nervousness and fear at the start of the year. It all boils down to the fact that I’ve never been a big talker and public speaking has never been something that I’ve jumped at the opportunity to do. I’ve always been the behind the scenes person making sure that all of the pieces were together. However, I continuously find myself placed in situations where I’m required to expand, grow and develop, in the capacity of publicly speaking and sharing my insight. 

In hindsight I am super grateful for the experience and opportunity to teach, because it truly has given me the confidence needed to stand before any crowd to teach or to deliver a message. Additionally, I have learned my best practices in this capacity and I realize that “doing the work” is half of the battle, yet “sharing the work” is what makes the picture whole for everyone to see, and this is what teaching is all about. Furthermore, this year’s teaching experience has played an instrumental role in helping me to step outside of my comfort zone and has helped me to become comfortable with public speaking.

Lessons Learned During this Phase 

  1. Stop doubting yourself…be humble but also know that you are capable of great things, put your mind to it and just do it! If you have ideas and changes for the course present it to the Course Lead and go for it.
  2. Preparation is essential…spending hours prepping your class is not wasted time, your students appreciate a well thought out class, and you will feel at ease knowing the information fully and knowing exactly how your class should progress throughout the day.
  3. Integrate activities and discussions…our classes at UCF are 2 hours and 50 mins long 😩, yet research states that you have students attention for 20 minutes. So when you see that you’re loosing your students, start an open discussion to regain their attention, or purposefully plug in an activity at various points to keep them engaged throughout the class.
  4. Be organized and uphold your policies…what you do for one you have to do for others, so make sure that everything is explained in your syllabus (and go over it with them so no one can say, “oh I didn’t know”)…OUR SYLLABUS IS OUR CONTRACT!

During a final discussion with my class this week, one of the students shared that out of the four classes that they are taking they learned the most in mine. Of course I asked why was that, and the response was, “well, for one it’s because of your attendance policy, and two, you don’t just lecture the whole class, you make it interesting, we all talk and we do activities and it actually makes me want to come to class.” Furthermore, I was pleased to find out that many of them have already registered to take my Macro class in the Fall. To me the biggest indicator of a job well done is the simple fact that they’re willing to embark upon another learning journey with me. 😊

Additional update on my Ph.D journey:

On tomorrow, April 25 at 1pm, I will stand before my Dissertation Committee and deliver my Dissertation Prospectus Defense (the first three chapters of my dissertation). Upon successfully defending I will transition from being a Doctoral Student to a Doctoral Candidate. 🙏🏽

Motivational Scripture

Jeremiah 29:11- “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Sincerely,

Rachael

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