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Work | Teaching


How I faced my fear and launched a new career

There were more of them than there were of me.

A Career Change Beckons

Six months earlier, I’d been working as an editor for a national monthly magazine in Leicester, England. My managing editor had bullying tendencies and would rather have been doing my job than his own. The news editor, who reported to me (when he reported to anyone, that is) was lazy, insubordinate, and had an unfortunate personal hygiene problem. I was unhappy and ready for a change.

Feeling the Fear, Going For It Anyway

Although I’d filled in as a substitute for a few sessions the previous term, I didn’t really think they would hire me. I wasn’t sure how well those sessions had gone, and I didn’t even have a PhD. But my mentor said that wouldn’t be a problem as they were looking for someone with practical experience of journalism. At least I knew I had a lot of that under my belt.

Getting Through the Interview

The first hurdle was the multi-part interview process. As well as a regular interview about my background, I had to come up with a sample lesson, present it to them, and answer questions about teaching.

What Happened to the Deadlines?

Then came the culture shock. I went from having lots of deadlines to having none because at that point in the term all the work had already been allocated. Worse yet, no-one was available to tell me exactly which modules I would be teaching and when they would be timetabled. I meandered through term three, picking up what useful information I could, then had a deliciously long summer holiday.

Surprise - You’re Teaching Everything!

In the end, I didn’t get a definitive answer on what exactly I’d be teaching until just before induction week in September. Journalism was on the list, of course, but that wasn’t a surprise. However, the fact that I’d be teaching first, second, third year, and MA classes was. Somehow I’d thought the teaching load would be lighter, but I was so wrong!

Productive, or Exhausted? Maybe Both!

Feverishly, I returned to the notes I had made while studying media theory on the MA, hit the books (there was no Google), and tried to come up with the first lecture. I finished it at about 2 AM in the morning before the 9 am class.

My First University Teaching Experience

Finally, it was the first Monday of term. I went into the lecture theater to be faced by 140 nervous first-year students. They couldn’t have been more nervous than I was, though.

Settling Into the New Role

About halfway through the term, I would discover that the ideal lecture for a 50 minute slot was in the region of 2,300 words. If I paced myself and repeated quotes, I could make it last, and it was easier for students to take notes, too. I learned to slow down and eventually I bought a teachers’ watch with big numbers that I could see when it was lying on the desk so I could easily keep track of time and avoid shortchanging the students.

Surviving and Thriving

Somehow I made it to the end of the academic year. By the time year two came around, I was in the same happy position as most of my colleagues. I had notes for all the classes I’d be teaching, and though I made sure they were up to date, I didn’t have to change too much.

What I Learned

I learned a lot from that teaching experience. Large crowds are still not my happy place, because I’m a confirmed introvert. But I learned that I could do what I had to, and I could even be good at it, inspiring and motivating students to take their own first steps into the profession I loved. And the attitude that made take those first steps into the unknown has allowed me to do many other new things, and have a richer life as a result.

Written by

Pro writer (B2B/B2C). Antiracism writer. Co-host: Introvert Sisters podcast. Global citizen. She/her. Sharon’s Anti-Racism NL:

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