Each year, UCAT offers a Teaching Orientation for Graduate Teaching Associates who are new to teaching at Ohio State or starting a new assignment. They always seem to get a lot out of it. They meet new people, learn principles about effective teaching, and gain confidence in their abilities to help students learn. But I’ve found that there is a group of people who get just as much out of the Teaching Orientation as our participants – our facilitators.
Most of our sessions are led by experienced Graduate Teaching Associates who follow a curriculum set forth by UCAT while infusing it with their own stories and personality. Some work in pairs together, some work individually, and some work with faculty volunteers. Without fail, the feedback I receive from the facilitators at the conclusion of orientation is outstandingly detailed and thoughtful, and it always includes reflections on how much the facilitators themselves learned from the orientation. Here are some of the common sources of these learning experiences, along with supporting quotations from some of our 2013 facilitators:
- Working with GTAs from other disciplines. Our facilitators find it refreshing to work in teams with graduate students from across various disciplines. They benefit from group brainstorms about best teaching practices, exposure to various teaching styles, and the reminder that teaching is teaching, whether in a music studio, science lab, or English classroom.
“I found my conversations with my co-facilitator to be one of the most rewarding experiences for me. We had come from different departments… but his several years of experience provided a lot of insight and some great suggestions that I am definitely taking with me.”
“I found it very rewarding to talk with other facilitators, who had very helpful ideas on both facilitating and teaching in general.”
- Working with new GTAs. Many facilitators reflect on how gratifying it is to help the new GTAs, having recently experienced the feeling of being new to teaching at Ohio State. It gives them a sense of purpose, in a way, and also helps them to see how far they’ve come. These more experienced GTAs always have exciting ideas and strategies to share as well!
“Seeing students really engaged in the material, writing down ideas that they were getting from their peers, helping nervous students feel more comfortable before they enter a classroom, and having positive feedback from students after the session was extremely rewarding. I was terrified to teach before I started OSU and I know that these things make a huge difference!”
“It was rewarding to feel like I was helping people who were in the position I was 3 years ago… even if it was just to say, ‘I’m just as nervous as you are, and so is everyone else!’”
- The opportunity to reflect on their own teaching. Our facilitators seem to come away from the experience feeling rejuvenated about their own teaching. They have studied and presented material about effective teaching strategies that they can then implement in their own classrooms. They have spent dedicated time discussing and brainstorming teaching ideas with other graduate students from across campus. They are in a position to head into the brand new semester ready to have their best teaching experiences to date!
“I enjoyed reflecting on my experiences as a teacher in a way I hadn’t yet been able to do, and loved discussing those experiences and the more abstract ideas about teaching with the participants.”
“I actually think I learned quite a bit myself during the process. It helped me to reflect on my own teaching methods.”
It is not only our GTA facilitators who benefit from the experience. Our faculty volunteers also reflect on how professionally gratifying they find working with their GTA co-facilitators and the new GTAs.
We feel very fortunate that Dr. Rich Ugland of the Department of History has devoted time to our orientation for several years. He provided this thoughtful response when asked about his experiences, highlighting the opportunity we each have to reflect upon what is most important before launching into the new semester:
What happens when teachers—from the budding novice to the veteran beginning to think about that “last lecture”—sit in on another person’s class? Well, they think about their own teaching: could I do what she just did; perhaps I should give that method a try; I would not want to do it the way he did. Being a facilitator for the teaching orientation gives opportunity to spur this kind of thinking. It never hurts to compare our own teaching methods to those of others, even the novices.
There are other benefits to being a facilitator. One simply is a reminder: it’s about learning, not about teaching. Have that theme abide in you and from it will flow just about everything we should be doing in the classroom. It prompts you to take a moment, to look at the big picture, the process, the goals of learning, before plunging into the detailed content of your course.
Finally, let’s face it, if you are a teacher of some years’ experience, your passion for the classroom may have flagged. It happens. Observing and evaluating the enthusiasm and anxiety of the fresh faces you instruct at the teaching orientation will help you, if needed, to recharge.
GTAs: We are currently accepting applications for GTA facilitators for the 2014 Teaching Orientation. If you will have completed at least two terms of teaching at Ohio State by the end of the academic year, please visit our application page.
Faculty members: We are in need of volunteers to co-facilitate an orientation session with a senior GTA. If you are interested in the opportunity, please email Jennie Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
–Jennie Williams, Program Coordinator