The importance of
Associate professor in the faculty of education,
Université de Sherbrooke
being a teacher isn’t about being a friend to students. Everyone knows
that, of course, but when you’re starting out and look rather like a student
yourself, things aren’t as easy as they seem. When I began my career, I was
teaching future grade-school teachers. I have a background in psychology,
so I tended to be very attentive to students’ needs, to listen to them and
build a climate of trust.
One of my students started coming to talk to me after every class. She
would tell me about her life, her difficulties with her husband, her studies,
her doubts and her desires. I never gave her advice, but I listened. A few
weeks into the course, we had our first summative evaluation. Afterwards,
I found a furious young woman waiting to vent about her grade. “Friends
don’t give friends 12/20,” was how she saw it.
That sentence hit me hard. What was it she had not understood about
my role? What could I have done to make her think we were friends It
took me a few minutes to realize I obviously hadn’t made it clear enough
that our relationship would in no way affect my role as an evaluator or the
way I would exercise that responsibility.
The semester came and went, and I never regained that student’s trust.
Ever since, I do my best to set things straight right away. I believe in a positive work environment and in listening to students’ needs, but that doesn’t
mean I am their friend. To prevent unpleasant surprises for both you and
your students, never lose sight of the importance of a transparent approach.
Be prepared and
Assistant professor in the department of
French studies, Concordia University
for those who have recently accepted a faculty position, here are a few tips:
Training: Make sure you attend the new faculty orientation day and/or
professional development sessions at your university’s teaching centre.
These are great opportunities to talk to colleagues and gain valuable
advice about effective course-planning strategies, making large classes
interactive and using technology in class.
Time management: Without a doubt, the first year is the most difficult
and most important one of all. You will have three or four new courses to
prepare each semester. Time management is the key to success when planning lectures and learning activities. Students place great importance on
evaluations and grades, so plan your marking process carefully to uphold
your commitments to them. And remember to take time for yourself — the
biggest challenge of positions like these is finding a work-life balance.
Preparation: Have fun with teaching, even if students appear less passionate about the subject matter than you are. It all comes down to the way you
teach and the different examples you use to convey the material. Feel free
to innovate and experiment in your teaching.
Improving your teaching: Students can tell whether your feedback on
assignments and tests is useful or whether the course materials facilitate
their learning. You can ask for an informal, mid-semester evaluation of your
performance to get students’ suggestions and adjust your teaching style.
“ To prevent unpleasant
surprises for both you and
your students, never lose
sight of the importance of
a transparent approach.”