CHAIR, ATMOSPHERIC AND OCEANIC SCIENCES
Work hard and be cognizant of students’ goals. Ask students what their goals are in life - some don’t know but most definitely do – and be proactive in helping them to achieve these goals.
Make sure each element you teach – in particular, each lecture – is its own, self-contained chapter with a message. Pick your chapters wisely from the, probably, enormous body of knowledge that constitutes the field you teach about. Acknowledge that you cannot teach everything that would be possible. Instead, make what you teach as understandable and interesting as you can. Encourage your students to become lifelong self-educators.
Masad J. Damha
Among all of my responsibilities at McGill, I consider teaching the most important. It allows me to stay connected with both undergraduate and graduate students and it impacts my research. I could write a whole book about how I ended up being a Professor in Chemistry; it suffices to say it was thanks to professors that taught the fundamental material AND connected these to real applications. Arriving to the classrooms 5-10 minutes earlier allows me to talk with students, find out how they are doing, and learn about their interests and academic goals. My last piece of "advice" is one I learned from a great mentor of mine: to picture what it would be like to be a member of the class you are actually teaching, and then apply yourself to the task.
CHAIR, COMPUTER SCIENCE
Take teaching more seriously than you might think you need to at the beginning. Make it likeable for yourself since it is an important part of academia.
CHAIR, EARTH AND PLANETARY SCIENCES
Be cognizant of the time you are putting into building your course. You can spend 50 hours for one lecture but it may not end up any better than if you had only spent a few hours. Don’t be disheartened by bad teaching reviews. You’ll get better and you should take advantage of the resources available at McGill like TLS and OSE. One day you’ll be able to tell a great story in your teaching dossier about how you responded to student feedback and improved your course
When I started teaching, one of my professors said, “Develop a course outline and stick to it. Don’t start jumping all over the place. Get through the course, see what didn’t work and then revise the next year.” I agree. I recommend that new faculty members stick to a game plan when they begin, and that they revisit their courses only after a couple of years of getting to know the student body and themselves as teachers. In general, students are most interested in getting through the course, and don’t know what their interests are yet. It’s only once professors realize this that they can see teaching more as an opportunity to turn these people on than as a job to primarily convey information.
Also, I think new professors need to take risks and to not be afraid of making or admitting to mistakes. The worst thing a professor can do is to start faking it because students’ hogwash barometers are pretty acute.
My only other advice is concentrate your teaching on concepts and connecting material – do not waste your time by increasing content. My course has 90% less content than when I started (it’s all in books and other places) but students have difficulty putting it together – show the link and explain exceptions. Learning is so much more effective by doing – struggling through a well thought out exercise that requires making logical connections is worth hours of lecture time. Finally, give your students an opportunity to write – focus of clear, coherent and concise writing.
It's the closest you will get to instant gratification in academia, try to have fun doing it, challenge the students (they are smart!), talk to peers, take advantage of what TLS offers, approach it like you would a somewhat unfamiliar new research field by looking at the literature and not overthinking. Then try, analyze the result, fix it and try again. Make sure you talk to you chair regularly (at least 1x per year) about your teaching and send her/him a summary of what advice you were given at that meeting and how you plan on following up on it.
If you want students to respect you then you need to show them respect (although it is not always reciprocated). Be patient. Why do you think what you are teaching is interesting and important? Share that with your students.
DIRECTOR, REDPATH MUSEUM
Be important. Don’t shy away and focus on research only. Be involved with teaching and service in some extraordinary way.