Brookfield (2015) describes in his last chapter 16 ways to stay sane as a new instructor. I will say that I actually found this to be the one chapter that really resonated with me. It allows us novice instructors to be forgiving of ourselves and to just keep trying. Here are the 16 maxims and my own take on them. It was a great way to self reflect my current and past classes/students.
- Attend to your emotional survival. Here Brookfield tells us that we need to take care of ourselves. By doing so, we can give our students the energy and enthusiasm they deserve
- Expect ambiguity. Basically, expect the unexpected and it’s ok to panic but you have to manage and be spontaneous in the moment. I think we’ve all been there!
- Perfection is an illusion. Thank heavens someone finally said it. There is a difference between perfection and experience which is probably what we newbies get confused with. We’ve seen those instructors who appear to just effortlessly teach but that’s experience and not perfection
- Ground your teaching in how your students are learning. We need to discover how our students learn so we can adapt our teaching styles, choices and techniques. Makes sense!
- Be wary of standardized models and approaches. The curriculum may be standardized but HOW we teach it is not. Each student, each classroom and each instructor are different so how can we possibly standardize approaches? Use the curriculum to guide your lesson and then YOU decide how to deliver it.
- Regularly learn something new and different. As a new instructor this one isn’t hard to do. If I have to teach a new course with information I’ve never seen before it can send me into a bit of a panic. Here is when I go to the experienced instructors for help and guidance. It’s also a good reminder that if I’m scared chances are so are the students
- Take your instincts seriously. This is where you use your “gut” rather than a set of instructions to deal with a situation whether it be a disruptive student, a negative tone in the class or if you are simply wrong and need to admit it to your students.
- Create diversity. Here is where we use different teaching styles to help create student engagement. It’s important to remember not all students learn the same or have similar education backgrounds. Adapt to the differences
- Don’t be afraid to take risks. Whether this is a group activity, lab exercise or whatever you think will help your class – just go ahead and try. You learn from successes and mistakes.
- Remember that learning is emotional. Your students and their successes or failures is linked with their self esteem. Remember that when you have a seemingly angry or frustrated student – it may have nothing to do with you.
- Acknowledge your personality. Basically be yourself and that’s ok. Trying to become someone you’re not can make you look, as Brookfield states, “inauthentic”.
- Don’t evaluate yourself only by students satisfaction. Let’s face it, we all like to be liked or to be known as the “good” teacher or “fun” instructor so when it doesn’t happen it can feel like a kick to the ego. You are not going to be able to please all of your students but you can address issues early, honestly and with transparency. This isn’t a popularity contest and it’s important to remember that.
- Remember the importance of both support and challenge. Brookfield discusses this as finding a balance between supporting a student and challenging them. We may have faith in that student and feel they need a challenge but if they aren’t successful we may both feel like failures.
- Recognize and accept your power. We have the authority of knowledge in our classroom (I dislike the term power). How we react to being challenged or questioned can be interpreted by the students in a variety of ways. We need to remember that our presence in the classroom and how we use that may have a variety of interpretations
- View yourself as a helper of learning. Brookfield states, “To teach is to help someone learn.” I really like this quote as it’s simple in it’s message. Our job is to put forth information in such a way that our students LEARN from it and hopefully apply that knowledge.
- Don’t trust what you’ve just read. Brookfield tells us that these are HIS maxims and that he’s simply sharing what he knows/has experienced/ etc. and put it down on paper. Just because we read it doesn’t make it true.
Personally, I dislike Brookfields writing. I find it overly wordy, filled with examples that seem to ramble on and then finally get to the point. This chapter neatly condenses what he feels is important and I have to agree with him. Being new at something isn’t easy especially if we are an expert in something else so it’s important to remember that we too are students and to go easy on ourselves. Time brings experience and experience brings confidence.