ACERT Connections, Teaching Tips | September 5, 2023

Advice for new instructors at Hunter

Are you a new instructor at Hunter College? Welcome! We asked some of your Hunter colleagues what advice they would give to you.

On the importance of listening:

“It’s funny because I’ve been there a while, but there’s newness really around every corner. And I think for a new person, I would want them to first do some listening, listen to your students. I hang out after my online sessions and I just listen to my students and what they’re talking about, and I learn a lot about what they would like to know more about. (…) Now I will frame this in the context of teacher ed: listen to what they’re interested in and what they want to learn. Because, again, these are people who want to be successful, they want autonomy. So listen to the themes that emerge, that they’re dealing with, and go toward that, to whatever degree possible.” (Christine Willard, Special Education)

On finding community and support during your first year of teaching:

“[Having started at Hunter last academic year] I feel like I’m still learning myself. I want to say don’t overcommit yourself, but at the same time I’m so happy that I did this Podcast Club and engaging in all of the ACERT meetings. And I would say do that, that’s what I would encourage people to do, is to just get involved in the ACERT community in particular, because it just made me feel like this was such a supportive environment for faculty who wanted to innovate in their teaching and such a wonderful place for me to establish myself as an educator. I very much feel that.” (Ingrid Lundeen, Anthropology)

On teaching in a graduate program:

“If you are in a grad program, allow your students to express some of their expertise, have them do some talking about what they’ve done, what they’ve tried – that really perks the attendance when students feel that they’re a vital contributor to that community, they then want to want to come, it’s value added for them, and, again, they feel autonomous and successful, which is what everybody wants to do in that setting.” (Christine Willard, Special Education)

On the importance of listening (2) and on engaging students:

“It’s absolutely invaluable to listen to your students, and it’s really important to recognize that you can’t listen to your students if you don’t ask them to say anything. I think this sort of intimidation that a lot of people feel, a lot of new faculty, myself included, that I’ve talked to, that you’re now responsible, you’re now like this authority for knowledge and for bringing something to these students that they’ve never had before. And, you know, to some degree, that’s true. But if the focus and the entire direction of activity gets harnessed by that focus, we end up just standing up there, soliloquizing for hours and hours and hours on end, without really knowing whether or not that’s what our students, forget about want, but need in order to actually engage and get what we want them to get.

And so I would just say, and encourage, and suggest that, especially up front and in the beginning (beginnings are so important), that from the very beginning, we offer ourselves as an opportunity to engage. If we only offer ourselves as an opportunity to be listened to, and that’s like the mode of engagement, we really lose a lot of things from the get go. I think doing everything we can, whether it’s a welcome survey or an opportunity for students to introduce themselves, no matter how long that may take, even in a 400-person lecture, giving students opportunities to know, and through action, know that their voice is being heard in that room and that it’s being listened to by you as an instructor. And that you are listening to it and what it’s telling you, in my mind, is the absolute core of teaching. It seems too receptive for this idea that we’re authoritative and responsible for, but it has to start there, there’s no other place, if we’re going to be successful.” (Josh Friedman, Psychology)

On where to make connections:

For sure come to the library. I think that that is a place to make connections. But I think for me, really going to ACERT was a place to make connections and then finding out what’s interesting to you, whether it’s people that are interesting or activities that are interesting. I feel like that’s a really fruitful network for me. I think that it’s the connections that make you want to stay and make the job easier. So I think those are two good places I know to make connections.” (Stephanie Margolin, Libraries)

On the inevitability of change:

“Don’t get used to anything. Everything, everything, everything will change. The minute you get used to something, it’s going to change. I’m not talking about your physical office space; hopefully that won’t change. But I’m talking about: You get used to the email system, it’s going to change next week. You get used to Childhood Ed, no, now it’s K-12. Everything’s going to change. So you just have to kind of roll with it, and know that it will be okay. And that’s what I’ve learned at Hunter – everything will change.” (Liz Klein, Special Education)

Christine, Ingrid, Josh, Stephanie, and Liz originally shared their advice on the Faculty Innovations in Teaching podcast, hosted by ACERT senior faculty fellow Gina Riley. We slightly edited their answers for this post. Listen to Faculty Innovations in Teaching and learn more about the ACERT Transformative Learning Podcast Club.

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