Time to learn… to teach!

Last year I was quite excited, but also quite scared, by the fact that two different seminars I was taking were requiring me to do a teaching demo, or to present my homework in the form of a lesson to my peers, rather than as a more traditional presentation. Those were my first experiences as a (mock?) teacher. In the following months I focused on my research only—after all, I was preparing for the comps—and, long story short, I didn’t get any other teaching experience. But this doesn’t mean that I have chosen research over teaching forever. When I fantasize about my future, I am interested in both. And even though I am not urgently needing any teaching training, I thought it would have been a good idea to attend two of the main teaching training events at McGill: the Graduate Teaching Workshop offered by T-PULSE, and the Learning to Teach Day, offered by SKILLSETS.

Being both about teaching, the two events have some unavoidable overlaps, but I found them diverse enough to justify my decision to attend both.

First, the Graduate Teaching Workshop is aimed at making its attendees good teaching assistants (TAs), while the focus of the Learning to Teach Day seems to be broader, as it is described as suitable for students generally interested in lecturing or TAing. This seems to be somewhat confirmed by the fact that the Graduate Teaching Workshop counts toward required AGSEM TA training, while apparently the Learning to Teach Day does not—at least, I didn’t find any evidence of this event counting as required TA training.

Second, the Graduate Teaching Workshop was like a 1-day class, in which all the participants stayed in the same (big) room from beginning to end, while the Learning to Teach Day was a 1-day conference with a couple of plenary sessions and some parallel sessions. This is probably the main difference: while the Graduate Teaching Workshop seems aimed at covering the basics, the Learning to Teach Day covers a variety of more specific topics, and it is up to you to decide which ones to attend. Now, these topics may vary depending on the edition but, for example, the edition I attended had plenary sessions on decolonizing education—very relevant in the Canadian context—and how to teach to very large classes, while the parallel sessions treated topics like how to give good feedback in the Humanities and Social Scienceshow to give good feedback in the Sciences, and issues in teaching in your second language.

Third, the atmosphere was good and friendly at both events, but the Graduate Teaching Workshops, being a smaller event, had a cozier atmosphere, and the organizers decided to make it even cozier by making us start the day with socialization activities. On the other hand though, ad the Learning to Teach Day I ran into some friends-acquanintances from other departments that I had not seen in a while, and that was a very pleasant surprise.

Fourth, not a difference, but a point in common: both events had free food!

In the end, I enjoyed both events, I definitely found them useful, and I certainly recommend attending both, or at least one of them, even if you are not TAing. In part, I think it was ok to attend them after my first little teaching experiences—after all, many of the issues addressed during these events don’t come up during a teaching demo anyway. But in the same time I think that it’s more than appropriate to attend them during your first year of graduate studies, if you have the time to do so, because it’s never too early to learn how a good teacher/TA should act.

Banner photo by @gradlifemcgill Instagrammer @kipunsam.daily

One thought on “Time to learn… to teach!

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