Another semester is winding down. As exam week nears, I’m prompted to reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned through teaching college students for the past few years.
I should preface this by saying, I never imagined myself in a teaching position. Getting a last minute request to help fill in for a professor on family leave, I agreed. Little did I know how much I would love it. I quickly realized the opportunity and honor it is to positively impact the lives of so many young people.
Honestly, I often feel like a student myself. I learn as much from my students as they learn from me. The discussions and questions posed by students in classes force me to think deeper, consider opinions I haven’t, and help me to see things from beyond my own perspective. The following list includes some of the lessons I’ve learned so far. I look forward to continuing to learn and grow with every class of students.
5 Lessons learned from teaching
- Have an open-mind. Students are growing up in a world very different from the one we grew up in. Knowing this helps in understanding how and why they think differently.
- Everyone can be successful, if they want to be. Passing my classes is not hard, it requires commitment. Most students have it, sadly some do not.
- Listening takes practice. Learn to listen, I mean really listen and not think about whether you agree/disagree and how you’ll respond. Biting your tongue and focusing are a lot harder than you think.
- Recognize your personal biases, and get past them. We all have them, but we don’t all recognize them. Once you do, you will no longer judge others. An important step — in teaching and life.
- Be humble. I may have years more life experience than my students, but I don’t know everything … not even close. Every day students open my eyes to things I never knew and would not know if not for them teaching me. This keeps me humble and grounded.
Before entering the classroom, I received a piece of sage advice from a long-time mentor and now fellow colleague. It’s something I remind myself of regularly … “you can only teach the ones who want to be taught”. This relates to lesson #2 on my list above … they’ve gotta want it. This stands true in all of life, actually. You know the old saying … you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. It is true.
This is perhaps the hardest of all lessons in teaching, and one I can’t say I’ve “learned” yet. It’s hard to not feel responsible for every student. And, I tend to take it personally when a student does not do well.
Admittedly, I need to get over feeling whatever a student does in my class has to do with me. If they’re on their phones, laptops or have earbuds in, I feel disrespected and frustrated. But, I remind myself as hard as I work to reach every student and present lessons in a way that is relevant and interesting — I can only teach those who want to be taught.
I know I will continuously work on learning this lesson. If you are or have ever been in a teaching role, what are some of the lessons you’ve learned.D