In Learning You Will Teach, and in Teaching You Will Learn

 In careers, PhD/Postdoc Blog, teaching

Following the phase III internship I mentioned in my previous blog; I began my journey into the field of teaching. From here on I started looking for opportunities and resources to help improve the skills I had and to also learn new ones. As an amateur in the field, almost everything was new to me from pedagogical techniques to jargons used in these techniques. It took me a while to get the hang of these techniques and learn the terminology, and though I can say I am pretty confident about what I learned, there is still a lot to learn in this field.

Co-teaching a chemistry course as part of the internship gave me actual classroom experience and a chance to overcome the fear of facing an audience. Though the duration of teaching was only a semester, its outcome was tremendous; I achieved so much towards my goal of a teaching career. Knowing how important it is to make connections at each career; during my internship, I would have conversations with the faculty I was co-teaching with about the path she took. I wanted to take clues from her career journey. She introduced me to other faculty members that helped me get more teaching assignments that following summer.

All these experiences were adding to my CV; I was learning skills that were different from what I had achieved as a researcher. My co-teacher was the only faculty, besides my research advisor, who could comment on my teaching skills and ability to think critically; therefore, I made sure to give my best efforts and maximum participation in every class. It was very important to make a good impression so I could ask for a recommendation letter. My efforts paid off, and her recommendations have been very helpful.

Part of my internship required attending several pedagogical workshops offered by the Office for Teaching and Learning (OTL) at WSU; this office and the workshops was my first exposure to pedagogy. Throughout the year, OTL at WSU has biweekly pedagogical workshops about everyday stuff you come across in undergraduate teaching. Also, WSU periodically offers specialized workshops that are focused on new or improved teaching techniques. Experts in the field frequently present these specialized workshops.

In addition to improving your knowledge and skills about teaching, they help in building a community (this is code for networking). The people you meet at the workshops are usually regular attendees who are either currently teaching or are planning to teach. Those interactions are also sources of information from their particular fields or their own experiences.

These workshops not only strengthen the foundations of teaching skills and your CV, but they also prepare you for the (academic) job market. I have attended multiple workshops at WSU, and continue to attend them, and I must say that these workshops have been an excellent resource for me in my teaching career path. I have added a lot to my knowledge and skills. From these workshops and my internship, I learned that the basic requirements for a job application: This portfolio must have a teaching statement, a research statement, and (of course) CV/resume with experience of both teaching and research. I will discuss these and the fellowship that I received after this internship in detail in my next blog.

Through my internship and my interactions with faculty members as well as students that I was co-teaching, I realized that my interest in teaching was growing and I was looking forward to achieving this goal.

Take home message:

If you are interested in a career in academia (teaching in particular), the Office for Teaching and Learning is one of the best resources available at any institution. Many offer regular workshops and one-on-one meetings to help you improve your job application or teaching plan.

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