“Hello! And welcome to the Introduction of Sociology…”
My poor students. They sat there and looked at me while I stood up there and looked at them.
Them: Who the hell is this guy? What’s his deal? My god this syllabus is huge.
Me: Holy crap this is a huge room. Holy crap I have to do this. Holy crap this is real.
I know that this might seem surprising, but a room full of students can be incredibly frightening. To all of my students—past, present, and future—who may read this, I just want you to know: you are scary as hell.
There, I said it. Scary. As. Hell.
No matter how much you plan, no matter how much you prepare, teachers must always contend with the silence of the classroom. You come in, you stand up, and the students sit there and wait while you are supposed to dish out whatever it is that you’re there to dish out. Teaching is an amazing opportunity, of course, but it is also a daunting one. But luckily, I love it and am happy with my new position this fall semester.
I am now an adjunct professor at Florida International University. I can get into the scary world of adjuncting in another post (especially the details about how adjuncting is, essentially, the exploited labor of universities in the United States), but for now I am just excited about this wonderful opportunity. I am teaching a section of Introduction to Sociology on Monday nights to 36 students at FIU (syllabus here). I’m not new to teaching, but I am new to FIU, so I was still nervous about my first day.
FIU is a huge campus with a ton of students (around 51,000) and an incredible amount of diversity. Approximately 70% of students are Hispanic.
I’ll say that again. Approximately seventy percent of students are Hispanic.
Only 10% are white.
I guess you could insert a wide-eyed emoji right around here. Yup.
When I learned this during the opening workshop for new adjunct faculty, my jaw dropped. This place is completely unlike every other institution that I have attended, visited, or taught. Add to the mix the fact that 93% of the students are commuters, and you have yourself a very fascinating campus to teach at.
I had planned for weeks and was ready to go for my first class. Denim? Check. Syllabi? Check. Lesson plan? Check. Let’s do this.
My approach to teaching is probably unlike those that you’ll find in textbooks, webpages, and workshops. Yes, I plan ahead and pay attention to details. Yes, I try to incorporate the latest research and current events into my lectures. But I also try to organize my teaching as an invitation to my students.
My pedagogy is motivated by enthusiasm for learning, and I often offer students more of an informal agreement rather than a formal demand. I am extending a hand for you, my students, to learn and get excited about learning. I’m going to have a blast this semester, and I’d like for you to come along for the journey. I can assure you that it will not be as much fun if you do not jump in to the nerd pool, so why not come along with enthusiasm and dedication?
Overall, I think that my first class went well. After going over the syllabus, I led the students through a simulation of thinking like a sociologist and developing research plans for proving hypotheses. Yes: I’m that professor who kept the students for the whole time during the first week’s class: the despised professor that everybody hates. But I think it was a successful first day.
More updates to come throughout the semester. If you're one of my students, I'd love to see you post a comment. =)