As I finish up the final grades for my first class, “Introduction to Cooperative Education for Engineers”, I had some overall takeaways. Although it was a fast-paced challenge, it was easily one of my favorite experiences in my professional career thus far. Teaching truly gives you a one-on-one ability to learn about others and their cultures. It gives you the chance to learn a lot about yourself too.

I’ve also seen the side of educating where your students question the point in your class. My focus was on career education, introspective learning about their own career goals, and how to work in the professional world. While all of that sounds amazing, some students see it as a mandatory class that is a waste of their time. They think they can teach themselves the information we present to them – how to create a resume, a quick Google search of what to do at a career fair, and that you’re supposed to research something about benefits before you sign your name on the job offer. However, for those students that have complained about the mandatory requirement, most of them admit that they learned something valuable at the end.

For example, just last week I received the following e-mail from a student:

“I didn’t think I would get much out of this class initially.  Your class was well taught.  It forced me to review my resume, update my long abandoned Linkedin page, and go to the career fair.  I got my co-op at the career fair with the company I wrote about in my paper.  They seem like an ideal company for me.  I wouldn’t have gotten this co-op if I hadn’t taken your class.”

Thus, sometimes our job as educators is to teach students about things they didn’t even know they needed. With that being said, here are some overall takeaways from my first time teaching:

  • I gained a new respect for how much time our educators put into a course outside of the classroom. Designing a curriculum, and brand new assignments, is a challenge.
  • There will always be students that throw you a curve-ball on what you think they’re going to do. For example, you might assume that if a student does poorly they didn’t come to class. Instead, I had a student that showed up to every class but didn’t turn in any of their assignments.
  • You can’t help every student, but it is worth it for each student you reach.
  • It is challenging being a young female professor when it comes to students challenging you on your decisions. After conversations with my peers, I was told I will face this challenge even more while teaching a male-dominated major.
  • Our students aren’t perfect and neither are we – sometimes changes need to be made to the syllabus even when the original outline was strict. Sometimes assignments don’t play out the way you thought they would in your head.
  • Technology can be the worst – always have a backup plan just in case you can’t get your audio to work.
  • Bring in presenters and student panels! Sometimes all your students need is to hear the information from someone other than the talking head that they see at the front of the room every week. This is especially true for student panels so your students can learn from their peers.
  • Teaching is not a static profession – even as a professor there is always something new to learn. Whether it is about your students, how to be more inclusive, e-learning, etc.
  • Students will SURPRISE you with their experiences, talents, and skills. There are some students that have already blown me away.
  • The most responsive class I taught this semester was on multi-cultural workforces.
  • Reminding students that their mental health is extremely important is something that I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to emphasize enough.
  • As much as I try to reach out to some students they will never reach back. That is something I have to be okay with. The best we can do is the best we can do, not the other half.
  • Having a group of peers is extremely beneficial – being able to talk through situations and what is the best course of action can help you gather a real world perspective. Sometimes it is helpful to not be in your own head all of the time.

Overall, it is important to remember that not every student is the same. Every student, every person, has their own personal journey that they should be able to explore. The goal is to help them find the best path for them.