Wellness Wednesday: Wellness for New (ish) Teachers

On time for once… I made it a priority to set a few minutes aside for myself to think about my own wellness as being a new ish instructor in academia. The first class I ever taught independently came to a close this Monday, though I still need to enter in final grades. It was a blur, an overall good experience, but taxing. Having everything depending on me was anxiety-producing at first, but I calmed down after the first couple weeks.

There are some especially interesting dynamics and feelings that arise when you are teaching people who are older than you. Luckily, I do have a lot of experience in the subject matter (addictions) I was teaching, as I’ve worked in that field for 5 years and TA’d for the course before I taught it by myself. So that helped. I still can’t really believe that I did it and I’m not quite sure how I took care of myself… or if I even did. I’m going to try to take better care of myself in the future.

To that end, I am teaching a 5 week sexuality course starting next week and am still prepping for it … given the craziness of my life. I think there is a guilt associated with new instructors as they feel like an imposter and think that a more seasoned instructor/faculty member would give students a better experience. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that, but I do understand the fear behind it.

I think for me, when I think about keeping my own wellness in mind, I have to understand and accept that I am going to make mistakes. Maybe some of my class materials will be boring. Though, given the subject matter of sexuality, I can probably learn to spice things up over time. I have to accept that I will make mistakes and maybe a class activity will flop and not take as long as I think it will and then we’ll get out early sometimes. That’s ok. There are some things that are hard to account for, especially when just starting out as an instructor. More so than that, I think I need to fully own and believe that I have something to offer and I can really help the student’s in terms of knowledge base AND their own personal and professional development. I’m still working on that. Somewhere I know that I didn’t get this far just by luck, but sometimes it’s hard to not feel as confident as I think I should… a lot of self-judgment goes along with teaching, I think, especially if you are prone to anxiety.

You learn that being comfortable in your own skin is something to be sought after… because being in front of people and making mistakes/stumbling over words sometimes is inevitable. You get to know yourself more than maybe you wanted to. I know I have become aware of some things that I didn’t realize before and it’s overall been pretty humbling.

I think putting your wellness first is important when teaching. Yes, you care about the students, but in order for them to get the most out of the class, you have to be sane. So if you have a backup plan, like a 15 minute video for them to watch and then discuss in class to give yourself a breather, that’s ok! I try to give myself some quick breathers during a few short group work activities. It’s also hard not to get overwhelmed when prepping for a new class, but I think making it your own is so so important, so as to not just go off of other materials provided to you or that you’ve done before. Freshening things up and making it new for yourself and re-familiarizing yourself with activities and materials I think is always important. I’m trying to do that currently without driving myself crazy. You don’t always know how students will engage with material/an activity until you do it, because different classes mean different dynamics. That’s one thing that can be unsettling is that the same thing won’t always work well. I need to just learn to roll with things better, think on my feet, be flexible, and not too harsh when things don’t go exactly how I want. I will be working on that.

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