Teaching without Fear

When I taught class in grad school, I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I outlined the text, read the outline to my students, and lived in fear they’d discover how little I knew. Somehow, I pulled it off.

Thirty-plus years of experience has made me a better teacher. The kind of teaching I’ve been doing is different, but teaching is teaching. To prepare for the first* class I’ve taught since grad school, I spent the summer going over the required textbook.

Two weeks before school started, I found out the textbook I’d planned the course around was no longer in print. Fortunately, the tables of contents for the 15th and 17th editions are identical. Shew. Switching wasn’t a problem.

I prepared my syllabus, figured out what the assignments would be, and set everything up in the online system students use to access course materials. The publisher provided Powerpoints for each chapter of the text. All I had to do was make them interesting.

The first day, I went over the syllabus and dismissed class after forty-five minutes — much sooner than I’d planned. It never takes as long to cover stuff as I think it will. With my extension teaching, nobody cares if I finish early. Students deserve all 75 minutes.

The second day was my first real lecture. My recollection of a few things was fuzzy, so I’d studied the text and, in the process, come up with a plan to cover everything. I started off with cavemen and worked up to present day to show the evolution of consumers with a history of the world Mel Brooks might envy.

One of the publisher’s slides was a lengthy list of similar terms. I’d looked them over ahead of time and felt like I could explain the difference. After fumbling through the first two or three — with a lot of help from the students — it was obvious I had no idea what I was talking about.


What did I do? Thirty years ago, if I hadn’t just died on the spot, I’d have prayed for the floor to open up and swallow me. How could the professor not know every little detail?

I laughed, shrugged it off, and announced that anything too obscure for me to remember wouldn’t be on the test.

Teaching without fear is fun. Only a few of my fifty students participated in the discussion, but everyone was paying attention. Much to my surprise, I ran out of time and still had slides to cover.

Teaching this class is a dream come true. Yeah, it’s only the first week of school and I’m brand new, but the end of the semester will be here in no time. I’ll keep you posted.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

*Yes, I taught a one-credit class last spring. In truth, my role was more facilitator than instructor. I only taught two of the fifteen sessions and nothing I hadn’t taught many times before. The rest were guest speakers.

Before agreeing to teach the class, I asked a lot of questions. Consumers in Society is a broad overview of the field, the only course in our department for freshmen, and probably the only course we offer I’d feel comfortable teaching. I still needed to brush up on a few topics, but nothing I couldn’t handle.