Tuesday, August 6, 2013

My First Day Teaching

I am a planner.  I think most people know this from my previous career in the events industry.  When I worked for Disney and Vegas there was an insurmountable amount of planning.  Budget. Transportation. How to make celebrities happy.  What to do when an elephant dies twenty minutes before the doors open to your convention.  I’m accustomed to planning for those sorts of things.  Well, in all honesty, I didn’t plan in advance what to do with the dead elephant, but when the time came and the poor guy keeled over, I came up with a plan pretty quickly.

This habit has followed me into academia.  Every semester I look forward to teaching my first class.  And I plan for it.  I print out my syllabus, make sure I have the class list, know what classroom I will be in, consider which funny anecdotes I should relay in order to establish a rapport with the students.  Today was my first day of teaching here in Botswana, and it was probably the least prepared I had ever felt for class.
I was told by a colleague a few days ago that often due to the chaos which revolves around registration, many faculty members don’t even try to teach the first week of school.  Instead, they show up to class and dismiss everyone.  Or they don’t bother showing up to class. I was told I would be lucky to have more than a dozen attend the first day.  Despite this fact I did put some thought into what I would do with whatever attendance I had.  I even prepared some powerpoints and activities for us to do.  All in vain.

The problem wasn’t a lack of preparation, because I did prepare.  The challenges were instead entirely out of my control.  When I arrived nearly two weeks ago Human Resources “entered me into the system” but due to some greater power I was “entered incorrectly.”  This meant I couldn’t get the basic access I needed.  They wouldn’t issue me a Faculty ID card.  This was critical because I needed to swipe the card to unlock the door to the classroom.  Then I would need to swipe the card at the podium in order to turn on the computer, projector, etc.  I also didn’t have proper computer system access, so even if I could get the computer to turn on, it would not let me log in to use my powerpoints.  No one could give me a class list in order to see how many students were supposed to be in my class.  And the icing on the cake? I had no confirmed classroom assignment.  Hey professors out there reading this, don’t you feel a little more appreciative wherever you are teaching at right now?
Nevertheless, it went well.  I found my class, which stills puzzles me.  Apparently most of the students knew which room was assigned.  Still not sure how that happened.  The classroom fortunately, had been left unlocked by the faculty member in there previously.  And I had over 60 students show up.  Granted, I still don’t know how many are registered for the class, but I would consider that commendable attendance.  Since I had no technology I went old school.  I found a piece of chalk on the floor, and used that to write key words and draw pictures on the board.  Essentially I asked them a lot of questions and gave them the opportunity to laugh at me, many times, while I attempted to pronounce their names.

The good thing is the first day is over.  Fingers crossed things will continue a little more smoothly next time.


  1. I certainly enjoy reading about your new life. Your patience is commendable. Again, I would be a crazy person!

  2. Thanks Aunt Liz. I'm glad you are enjoying them.

  3. "I print out my syllabus, make sure I have the class list, know what classroom I will be in, consider which funny anecdotes I should relay in order to establish a rapport with the students." #BestProfessorEVER! #Awesome #IsThisTwitter? #OopsThisIsntTwitter #You'reStillAwesome!

  4. Haha... this made me think back on my first day of class with you, which was also my first official day as a RHIM student. The thought of you having to find a piece of chalk on the floor is hilarious, I can just see your reaction.