Pedagogical Bliss: The Thrill of an Enthusiastic Lecture-Sized Class
Having signed over my life to the academy, I have lots of different responsibilities. A quick look at my current to-do list shows that sometime in the next few days, I have to grade discussion posts, review articles for scholarly journals, write an introduction to an issue of a journal I'm guest editing, write e-mails to about 20 researchers to ask if they want to submit to another journal I'm guest editing, cut 20% of the words from an article I've written, respond to...
(checks e-mail, comes back, smashes head onto desk)
...31 student e-mails since yesterday morning, write a course proposal, mail book proposals, and sing about a partridge in a pear tree. It's a lot. Now, I'm not listing all these things to foster pity for poor, poor academics. The fact of the matter is that I can do most of those things while sitting on my couch watching the Stanley Cup Finals. The academy has its upside.
No, I just want to convey the variety of the things that most academics have to do on a given day. Although I have a ton of different things for which I'm responsible, I think of myself primarily as a researcher. Sitting at my desk, asking research questions, collecting data, analyzing data, the nervous rush of sending a paper out for review... these are a few of my favorite things.
Having said that, I should also state that I have enjoyed teaching. It is exciting to watch a light bulb go off inside a student when they finally understand Reasoned Action Theory or when they realize how TV ads have tried to play on their emotions. It's cool. I just have always considered myself a researcher first and a teacher second.
That was until this past semester, when I was asked to do a guest class at Temple University on persuasion and social influence. This class is the largest I've ever had, and initially, the most terrifying. Until January, I had never had to stand in front of a classroom and stare down the barrel of a 9:30AM, 120-student-sized shotgun. As the semester progressed, though, the students got used to me, and I got used to them. And while I don't want to go into extreme detail about the goings on in class (15 weeks is a lot of ground to cover), I will say that this--my first large lecture--provided more than its fair share of those cool moments that make teaching exciting. Students actively engaged in activities that show how inoculation theory works, students speaking up about how they now recognize when someone is trying to use a persuasive tactic to "sell them on something," students applying the lessons of the previous weeks to the current political climate; each class period, the students were amped. It was fantastic.
So, to those 120 students who suffered through my corny jokes, examples, and long winded lectures at 9:30 in the morning during the Spring of 2017, thank you! You got me even more psyched about the pedagogical side of academia. I now consider myself a researcher and teacher in equal measure.