I taught my first class today and this is what I learned

  • Stop rambling. I ramble and talk a lot. I get excited and keep on talking. I need to continually remind myself to be concise. (This is a daily practice and one of the main things I focus on when writing this blog… oh, and I’m rambling now!) I noticed that some of the students were tuning me out. I shouldn’t fill every quiet moment with more words.
  • Have a bigger goal for the lesson, so the quick students have something to work on while you’re helping the students who are stuck. Some students learn faster than others and the ones that are done early get bored and usually goof off. I can’t teach at a fast pace because the students who are stuck will feel overwhelmed, constantly feeling rushed to catch up to the rest of the class. Having a larger goal in mind when teaching is helpful, that way, the students who finish early can go back to chipping away at that larger goal. To put this in context, I was teaching a tutorial on making websites with WordPress. The larger goal for this class was to create a website explaining and promoting a video game. Ideally, if someone finished a task early, she could go back and create more content for the website. Unfortunately  I lead the class in a lesson manner, jumping from one lesson to the next. I noticed when a student finished something early, she became bored, because she was just waiting for the next lesson.
  • Frame the lesson. Tie the instructions together and make them building blocks to an end goal. Codeschool does this very well. Every instruction and example should have been framed as another step towards creating the website for the video game. Every image I uploaded, or piece of copy I wrote, should have been about the particular videogame. In reality, I wrote a lot of: “testing copy” and uploaded an image of a cat.
  • Having a teaching assistant is very important. One person leads the class and the TA walks around the room to field minor questions. If some of the students are having the same issue, the helper can see this and address the whole class.
  • Plan for an extra hour of teaching. I guestimated how fast our students would learn, and my guestimation was wrong. I planned an extra hour of content, and we went through all of it!
  • You may have to explicitly ask: “How can I help?” some students won’t ask for help. Also, asking: “Do you have any questions?” doesn’t work because sometimes they won’t know what to ask!
  • Have more class participation. This keeps students engaged and keeps an open dialogue.
  • Have fun. I was nervous, excited, but never frustrated when prepping for or teaching this class. Everything is more enjoyable when you’re happy. I was happy to share my skills.

Alright, now I have a question for you. I didn’t know what to do when I asked a brainstorming question and no one responded. I eventually caved and supplied answers. Should I have singled students out? Should I have waited until someone gave an answer (I hated when my teacher used to this!)? Please, give me suggestions in the comment section.

I’m a student, and I know I’ve got a lot to learn. This was my first teaching anything to a class and it was a lot of fun. Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing your opinion below :)

The most important concept I’ve ever learned

Ready for it?

You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.

Seriously? Yeah, seriously.

First, let me say this, I am not a psychologist, however, I think mimicry is a pretty interesting, and a lot of psychologists think it’s pretty cool too. (This paper has a good summary of some of the better known studies, read the first paragraph of section 2. Social influence Effects of Mimicry). Long story short, according to psychologists, humans mimic other humans.

Why is this useful to you? I’ve found when I hang around with pedantic people, I become nit-picky. When I hang around with happy people, I become overjoyed and excited about the future. Maybe this isn’t the same for you, but the change I saw in myself when I recently moved from Chicago to Ottawa was astounding. I completely changed my social circle and that changed everything. My internal monologue, my interests, my health, all changed.

Want to change your outlook on life? Spend more time with people who have traits you idolize. You may be thinking: “Why would they want to spend time with me?”, bullshit, people aren’t that cruel. Invite them over for a dinner party or a house party, everyone loves being genuinely invited to a fun evening. Go overboard too! Read up on whatever topic you think might make interesting conversation.

I’ll end this here. You get the jist: You are who you hang out with.

Onward and upward my friend.