Wellness Wednesday: Teaching New Courses

For the doctoral student working on their dissertation and teaching at the same time, or the new instructor, this one is for you. My God. I’m teaching a Sexuality class for the first time, some of the most fun and interesting material that I get to teach, but boy is it still a hassle teaching a truncated semester class in five weeks.

I try to prepare as best I can, but sometimes there just isn’t time for me to practice or go over my notes as much as I would like. I’m just getting used to that. It feels similarly to when I do group therapy some time without having much time to prepare. I balance content and process in class just as I would a psychoeducation group… but it’s still a new role and a weird dynamic when you are teaching some students who are older than you or many who are near your age and likely look to you more like a friend/colleague than a professor. It’s been interesting.

Taking care of myself through the whole thing has been challenging, because I always feel rushed and don’t seem to have the time to do things I enjoy doing. I try to remind myself of what matters, like the people who care about me and literally cook me food when I can’t think straight enough to do anything but just sit… I have people in my life like that today, when everyone else seemed to walk out when things got rough. I have that support that not everyone else has, and I have to remember that on the hard days. I never do take it for granted because I know what it’s like to go at things alone.

Essentially, nothing is worth your mental health. There’s no shame in showing a video in class or having students do a group activity if you need a breather. Always have a low stress backup. Or even ending class early if you need to. I would rather have engaged students for the first 3/4 of class than blank faces keeping them for the entire allotted time. Plus it’s hard to be entertaining enough to keep peoples attention for 2.5 hours in the evening when they’ve probably worked all day. I know as an instructor it’s not my responsibility to be entertaining, but it helps to be engaging… and that’s hard sometimes.

I received such good advice from a colleague/mentor/friend today, that it takes doing the class about 3 times through before you iron things out. He said he received feedback from a student that his first class was a “train wreck” and he agreed! What courage to keep pushing through. It’s hard, but keep trucking on.

For me… I think it’s always just been forcing myself to do things, because the alternative would be doing nothing. Because my anxiety wants me to do nothing.

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