An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: Preparing For My First Teaching Experience

If you have been keeping up with my last few blog posts, then I’m sure you’re able to tell that I am a graduate student. As a part of the many training activities that I have partaken in throughout the time of my graduate training, I am excited to say that I can now officially add “course developer” to my curriculum vitae. This summer I will have the pleasure of working with high school students participating in the 4-H Teen Conference held at the University of Kentucky. Underneath their health major, another student and myself proposed a nutrition course titled #HealthGoals. Together, the objective of our course was to inform students of basic nutrition facts, guidelines, and consequences of over-nutrition, as well as to introduce the students to fruits that are traditionally less eaten and healthier snack options. The only catch was that the students were allowed to pick what classes they wanted to attend. So, my colleague and myself’s perspective course was in competition with several other potential classes and had the possibility of not being chosen. This was initially stressful because we knew that we had ideas for an exciting class, but how do we ensure the students know this as well? After days of tweaking the course description, we were finally able to settle on a name and description that perfectly, and succinctly, advertised the course. After submitting, a few months went by before we heard anything else about if we would have students participating or not. Finally in May, we received word that 11 students had signed up for our class. I know this may not seem like a lot to everyone, but to us, it was a win.

Now that we knew for sure we would be instructing a class we moved on to the official planning stage – and it was a lot harder than we thought it was going to be! We would be instructing 2 classes, each of which would be 3 hours and 15 minutes long. How were we going to fill all of this time? We also wanted to make the classes as interactive as possible to increase attention to, and retention of, the material. Drawing on our years of joint experience as students, we were able to come up with a final outline of what we would be doing down to the last minute. We thought, “Better to be over-prepared than to not have enough material to fill the time.” I would say that this experience was without a doubt more difficult than I thought it would be. Planning a class takes a lot more time than I was originally anticipating.

Going forward I now have a better understanding, and appreciation, of the planning my Professors do to make a successful class.

For those of you that teach, do you have any tips that make the lecture planning process smoother?