Those that cannot do, teach… I did not enjoy typing those words, and for the most part, I do not believe it to be true.
There again, I’m am now a teacher, so perhaps you would expect me to say that? I am sure many believe it to be true, that if you really cannot cut it in the ‘real world’, there might instead be a career in teaching. The following is for those of you that have ever considered changing careers and going into education to provide teaching and learning, or for those of you that think most teachers teach because they cannot do anything else. I hope it provides a little bit of an insight.
I have been a lecturer and an academic for almost sixteen years and I constantly evaluate my own skills and teaching materials for fear of losing touch or becoming outdated. Things such as teaching materials never stand still, and no one year is ever the same. I now have reached a stage in my career where I line manager other academics, and part of this job means that I manage and coach staff to do their very best and ensure teaching quality is at a standard it should be. We all need to be good in the role because the student experience is imperative to what we do, and with fees being what they are, there is no room to ‘dial it in’.
I can remember my first day lecturing so well. I had my materials prepared, my slides ordered, and all I had to do was talk right? I talk, students listen, and by listening they would learn. It took me a few weeks to realise learning and lecturing were not necessarily complementary tools when it came to learning, and this realisation brought the cold sweat of concern, worry, and it took years to feel I was actually starting to get anywhere.
The reality of teaching at any level is difficult to see if you have not done it before. The ‘teaching’ or the act and delivery of public speaking is just the tip of the iceberg, and the prep that needs to go into every 50-minute lecture can take days to assemble. Gathering lecture materials is not usually the difficult bit, the part that takes the longest is usually finding the right approach, the correct order of information, getting the flow and pace right, and selecting appropriate materials to either display, discuss, or sometimes do both.
If you have taught before I am hoping I have not said anything that you disagree with so-far, and I state some of this for anybody who was considering changing their career. Is teaching rewarding? Hell yes! Teaching as a practice is like anything in life, you might be winning, succeeding, knocking it out of the park, but it is often so busy you may not have chance to take stock and realise the impact you might be having.
I am a worrier, which I think is a strength, and one of my worry’s is for new staff that start the job brimming with passion and energy. Passion and energy are amazing elements to bring to teaching, but in my experience, learning is rarely a quick thing, and much of what we teach takes years to seep into brains, and teachers that bring dynamic delivery skills can often burn themselves out quickly, or end up feeling dejected because they do not see results quick enough.
Another issue is teaching the skills and information industry wants – As essential as this stuff is, and it really is, much of the core information behind actual industry practices is very dry and difficult to bring to life in a teaching environment. Real world processes, ways of working, and technical approaches to realising a project are great for those that are willing to learn. For many students the actual methods and processes come as a shock, and in a world where apparently we can all be famous, have everything we want yesterday, and find stuff we need via a smart phone without breaking into a sweat, the age-old nitty gritty of getting down into the dirt and doing some real grafting is a tough sell.
So genuinely. the reality of teaching is damn hard – it is not for the faint hearted, and I’ve learnt and improved my skills in an education environment far more so than if I had stayed freelancing as an Avid editor.
The job is bonkers at times, the fragmented nature of the work means you never really get to appreciate a major achievement, and then you find the academic year has finished, you are shaking hands on graduation day, and before you know it you are busy trying to prep for the start of another academic year that will bring more countless unknows. For those that dare to attempt this job every day – I salute you!