"Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater." ~ Gail Godwin, American novelist
"If you have stage fright, it never goes away. But then I wonder: is the key to that magical performance because of the fear?" ~ Stevie Nicks
Today marked my first college class teaching. My friend, Jamie, teaches an introductory political science and an elections class at Hunter College. He asked if I would come in and guest teach on the topic of social media and popular elections. With a great amount of nervousness, I accepted and went this morning at 10am to teach 2 sessions.
I have a secret - I have an awful case of stage fright. I've been known to get sick to my stomach several times before making a presentation or acting in a performance. I have a few techniques I have tried over the years and only one really seems to work: quit whining and just do it. It's amazing that once I get to the stage or the front of the room, I'm completely fine. It's the anticipation of performance that brings on the butterflies.
And so it was at Hunter. I had made copious lecture notes and rehearsed in my apartment. I was wringing my hands a bit, and worrying. Would I add any value? Would the students think what I had to say was relevant? What if I couldn't answer a question? And here's the truly terrifying one - what if there was no reaction at all from anyone? What if all I heard was crickets amid a sea of empty, expressionless faces? Ouch.
True to past experience, none of these things happened. The classes were engaged, interested, and interesting. I learned as much as they did in the course of the preparation and the class itself. Teaching is exactly like theatre with an added component of more front-loaded research, and theatre and research I know I can do. What surprised me most is how much I loved teaching a college class. Truly loved it. The time flew by, and when I was finished, I wanted to teach another session. Yes, the PhD-route is certainly the right one for me. Now I know that for sure.
In preparation for the class, I have had the great fortunate of amazing professors as clear examples. At Darden where I got my MBA, professors teach the case method. No lecturing allowed. The professor's job is to draw students out, to engage them immediately, and keep the dialogue flowing non-stop for close to two hours. This is no easy task and for two years I had the privilege to sit with masters of this teaching method like Ed Freeman, Robert Spekman, and Alex Horniman.
I have also been watching and studying Michael Sandel, a professor at Harvard who teaches a wildly popular class entitled simply "Justice". For the first time, the class is being shown on-line for free at http://www.justiceharvard.org. Every Thursday a new class is uploaded. Sandel, like my Darden professors, is a master teacher that manages to engage and facilitate discussion in a very large lecture hall. Watching him made me re-consider teaching as a profession, and reignited my interest in going back to school and getting a PhD. I must remember to send him a thank you card.
I have just created an account on slideshare.net and uploaded the presentation I gave this morning at Hunter. I build presentations as guides for a discussion and not stand-alone documents. I'm glad to walk anyone through the presentation if they're interested!