Author: Victoria E. Rodriguez, MSW, MPH
Program in Public Health
Editor-in-Chief: Alex Bower
February 20, 2022
Teaching for the first time completely on your own is a very intimidating feat. When I was first offered the position to teach an undergraduate class during Summer Session, I was mixed with thoughts and emotions. I was excited, scared, confused, but mostly importantly I was unsure how I would be prepared to do this completely on my own. Then, I learned about the Spring Graduate Fellowship Program (SGFP) offered through the Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation (DTEI). I immediately applied and, upon beginning this program, I started to feel less nervous and more prepared to teach. The resources and mentorship provided to me in the program were integral to my confidence and success as an instructor.
The SGFP program provided both asynchronous and synchronous training about how to design a course, including developing a syllabus and Canvas page. The program cleverly integrates active learning techniques and assignments. Being on the receiving end of these techniques allowed me to understand and imagine how I could do this for my own course while learning the objectives of the program. Additionally, there were so many resources shared on the SGFP program’s Canvas page that were so helpful. I was able to save all these resources and tips for future use and this really helped me to not feel so stressed about retaining all the information for the program. These resources also serve as helpful tools that I can continuously look back on and refer to.
The training and assignments that helped us prior to our course beginning was instrumental for me in setting up and organizing my course. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and love things to be organized so being able to learn different tips to organize my syllabus and Canvas page was so helpful. In fact, many of my students noted in their evaluation forms how much they enjoyed the organization of the course and Canvas page. I’m certain that without the training from the SGFP program I would have not gotten so many positive reactions about the organization of my course.
For me, however, the most important aspect of the SGFP program was the faculty mentorship provided once the course began. My faculty mentor and I met on a weekly basis to discuss any questions or issues I was having. This ranged from individual student requests/concerns, navigating expectations with my TA, and overall advice about course organization and grading. Having TA’d before it was easy to address student concerns and questions knowing that I didn’t have final say and could always send more difficult concerns to the professor. However, being the instructor meant that I had the final say and this was a very challenging role to fulfill. I am certain that I would have had more difficulty in navigating these various scenarios and situations if I didn’t have my faculty mentor to seek advice from.
Overall, this experience taught me that there are always resources, support, and advice that you can seek out from those who have more experience– especially when it comes to teaching! I will forever be thankful to the SGFP program and the various mentors engaged in this program as it made my first experience of being an instructor an enjoyable and fruitful experience.