Early this academic year, my paths crossed with a junior colleague who was having a bumpy start, just like me…
She couldn’t find her students. My students managed to find me, but the room that we were supposed to be in was already taken by another colleague. Kindly, this young lecturer offered my students and me her space.
A few weeks later we saw each other again. We exchanged a few words, asking each other if things were going more smoothly in the meantime. Soon our conversation touched upon the issue of working with large groups of students and the question of how to facilitate them without feeling like drowning in work. Slightly hesitant she said:
“Well… because I am on a temporary contract, I am inclined to facilitate my students. I mean, if they give me a bad evaluation,… I just feel vulnerable. In the end, I love working here and I would love to renew my contract.”
She totally reminded me of my younger me. That was my logic for a while as well. ‘Since I am a temp, I have to prove that I am worthy of renewal of my contract’. One day I decided to go about it in another way. ‘Since I am a temp, I’d better do what I believe in. What is the worst that could happen? I am a temp!’
Looking her in the eye, appreciating her openness, just sharing her feelings of vulnerability with me, I replied: “What if you’d do what you believe in, deeply. What do your students need to learn in your opinion?”
She looked me in the eye. Her eyes started to sparkle.
“Wow, that is a very different approach. Let’s talk some more next week,”
she replied, and she hurried off to her class.
What do we want to bring to class? Do you want to connect with your students, and just be really present during your contact hours? Experimenting, interacting, freestyling, working with what they bring to class.
If you are a temp, or on a permanent contract, I hope you are enjoying yourself and that you are doing exactly what you believe in as a scholar and a teacher.
So, basically, I am kindly inviting you to ask yourself when you are teaching your students: what is behind your steering wheel?
Is it fear of bad evaluations
is it love for your field, your methods and your academic beliefs that you are teaching?