I made the decision to teach for my professional growth two years ago. I had a mostly satisfying and fulfilling career as a nurse. By the way, I still am a nurse. When you seek a profession to help others, you are born into a heritage that you remain faithful to regardless of life choices. My calling still remains, to help others. The setting may be different, but the mission is similar.
October, 2013 I discovered myself standing before a class of Health Assisting seniors. I had very limited experience in public speaking and no formal experience as a teacher. I was still very wet behind the ears. Fortunately, I did have a very limited lesson plan for this 70 minute period, not that I even recognized what a “Lesson Plan” actually entailed.
What I did have was firsthand, real world experience in the topic, Emergency Room Technician. I was excited about this topic! I had worked as an ER Tec as a college student. I performed CPR for the first time in this role. I can still recall the sensations and the smells. My memory may be dulled, but I do believe the team attempted to revive this gentlemen for at least an hour. His ribs cracking under my hands as I was instructed to continue the excessive compressions. Certainly, I had very real life experience that would serve me well as I stood before them.
The first hurtle was adjusting to 20 pairs of eyes focused on you (hopefully!). The student’s attention was definitely drawn to the “new” teacher that presented before them. Thankfully, they were naturally curious and on their best behavior.
I would soon learn that these same eyes notice any subtle change you may make to your appearance. Often, complimenting your shoes, your hairstyle, or your make-up. But, these eyes also make note when you have an annoying pimple or dark circles under your own. This day, I was blemish free and still reeling from the excitement and adrenaline of this new adventure.
Adjusting to standing before rows of desk and students may take time, as well as projecting your voice to reach 20 pairs of ears. I am not typically a talkative person and I am most definitely not loud. I have always prided myself for being a very good listener. I had yet to build my repertoire for creating very good listeners in my students. But, I wholeheartedly excepted this challenge. I was finally at a place in my life where I realized others may benefit from listening to me.
Fortunately, even on this day I knew it was vital to establish respect and trust to be effective. I spoke respectfully and kindly to my class. I sought to connect with as many of the students as possible by prompting them with questions and genuinely respecting their responses.
Amidst the introduction of the foundations of this topic, ensuring their knowledge of individuals such as Clara Barton and of The Red Cross, I was able to find my way. Overall, I would assess my performance as a C+, respectable for a brand spanking new teacher. Hey, I didn’t run away crying.
Change can be hard; the uncertainties and the possibility of failure creates such a looming barrier for most of us. I can still recall the inner turmoil I had to overcome to teach that day and the days following. At times being overwhelmed after years and years of enjoying providing competent and compassionate nursing care.
There are specific sensations I recall from this particular day. The unexplainable fluctuations in temperature, one minute I was hot and moments later cold. I pulled my black cardigan absent-mindedly on and off over my head. The sensation of my voice echoing like from a cave in my mind. Was that me actually speaking? The floating sensation as if I was watching myself teach. It would take almost a full year of teaching to feel mostly at ease and mostly confident standing before a class of students. I am still eager to improve my effectiveness as a teacher and I have not looked back~ both encouraging signs!
The highlight of teaching my first class did not come until the bell rang and my students prepared to leave. I think I took my first normal breath as I felt my nerves dulling. One kind student approached me and leaned in,
“Ummmm, Missss…ummm, well I think you should know. Your sweater is on inside out.”
My confidence was boosted with this revelation. Instead of students snickering at my struggle, that class spared me. They already respected me enough not to laugh and for that, I give myself an A.