For the past year, I have been teaching as an adjunct professor of marketing at Kentucky State University. It’s a milestone that has been a little unexpected. Perhaps in the back of my mind, I’ve thought about teaching, but only tangentially. I was raised by two educators who taught public school so while it was something I thought of I don’t think I had ever seriously considered the profession.
However, when the opportunity to teach part-time in the field of my graduate degree, I thought that I should give it a shot, do my best, and see where it would take me. In this post, I’d like to share with you my reflection on the year and what I have learned.
First, I learned that it is okay to start small and lean into the resources that you have available. As a first-time teacher, I didn’t know really what I was doing. I knew what teachers did, and that was a lecture, grading papers, and assignments, and assigning students homework. But I was teaching online, virtual courses. I also had to learn a learning management system, and I had to work with the bookstore to pick a textbook for my students.
To start small I simply decided to ask the last person to have taught my course and request if I might be able to borrow his syllabus as a reference. I did not need to reinvent the wheel as it were. So, I requested the syllabus and made that my “template” for my course.
Be smart about my approach
Second, I knew I had to be smart about my approach. My father has probably been my biggest help along the way. Not only was he a high through middle school teacher, he also was a middle school administrator, and also an adjunct professor at some small universities. Knowing me, he knew that I might try to do too much right out of the gate, and he was right. He advised me to follow the syllabus I had and not do much “extra” in my first semester. I have a tendency to change things too quickly, and this was probably not the wisest approach to take as a first-semester adjunct.
I made sure then, to follow the syllabus provided and stuck pretty much to the outline of the class. I kept many of the same assignments, flow, and approach to the course as the last person who taught it. That way, I think I was in compliance with accreditation needs and the standards set by the school.
Figure it out as you go
Third, learn as you go. Teaching, marketing, really anything that someone does like this is something that you learn from. Learning really is nothing more than taking action and evaluating the results. That’s what my professor at UC, Drew Boyd, always encouraged us with as we tackled complex problems or made decisions based on what we read in case studies. In teaching online I’ve noticed some things work and some things don’t. In doing small things over and over I’ve probably learned and absorbed a ton that I’m not really aware of.
I’ve learned things about time management that I would also share with my students. Set time aside for grading, reviewing, and responding to students. Learn new concepts that you could use in your classroom.
Make small changes over time
Fourth, think like a software developer, or product manager. We all know about updates to the apps we have on our phones, and products are always updated with new features and the like. I’ve come to see my courses like that. My first semester and first-time teaching courses have all been “beta” versions, or Course 1.0. When I teach the same course again, I’ll improve it, making Course 1.0, Course 1.5, or Course 2.0. For instance, adding discussion board posts, requiring papers to be written, and other things.
I’ve heard a lot from my students that they would like to have the content in other forms, so I think in my next year of teaching I’ll either take a big leap or a small step and record weekly video lectures or conduct live teaching. I haven’t decided yet. Somewhere down the line, I’d like to invite guest speakers to give a different perspective on marketing.
Teaching is not without challenges though. One is having to spend time in “tech support” mode when things in class don’t work, like grades not showing up for a student. Some students worry too much about grades. Another is responding to requests for extensions on due dates. I don’t accept late work and it’s a policy of my school, so I have to toe the line.
Finally, teaching allows me to both teach what I have learned to students, keep my knowledge sharp and continually learn myself, not only the latest marketing trends, but also how to be a better teacher in the long run.