Learning how to Teach

After slaving for five years as a student I found myself suddenly in different shoes – the powerful ones. One of my professors gave me a chance to co-teach a class on the history of football. At first I was excited, but as the first day of class came closer, I became more and more nervous.

“Why did I take him up on that offer?” I wondered. I nearly fainted whenever I needed to give a presentation, and now I would be presenting for two whole hours! But by the time  “D day” arrived, I had calmed down a lot. And I was sure nothing much would be expected of me for the first session – you know, time to adjust.

Boy was I wrong! As planned, I came to school an hour before class.  The professor rushed into his office and stunned me with the bad news: “I haven’t had time to prepare the first chapter. So it would be great if you could present that to the class!”

It was surreal, like having an out of body experience: I heard and saw myself moving and speaking, but I wasn’t really there. “Sure, that’s what assistants should do,” I heard myself saying… And he departed for his other class leaving me alone with a book resembling the tablets that had held the Ten Commandments. Like bells, my head was ringing – sure, sure, sure – but my brain couldn’t understand why. I was petrified.

There was nothing else to do but jump in. As the minutes passed by, the tension rose to its peak, the number of cigarettes in the ashtray grew significantly. There was no turning back.

As I stepped into the seminar room, one of the university’s biggest classrooms, I felt as timid as a baby bunny. For the first time in my life I wished I were an undergraduate. Or maybe dead.

As students walked in the class, they eyed me suspiciously; after all, I was their former colleague, now sitting in front of the class. I wanted to crawl out of my skin.

Somehow I just started, and from somewhere, a voice emerged, one that sounded cool and collected, for whom teaching was the most natural thing in the world. By the end I was happy, euphoric even. And each day, I enjoyed it more and more. I wasn’t feeling powerful as I had expected – I was too in awe of the responsibility – but rather respectful and I hoped trustworthy, which in the end was much better.

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