Today, the Fall 2011 term began at the technical college where I work. My teaching schedule is not quite what I had expected, but it is a good one, and I am eager to begin upon it.
I find that this time, I do not have nearly so much of the nervousness that I have in past terms had at getting new sets of students to work with. Part of this, I think, is my increasing familiarity with the job and its demands; this is my eighth term at the technical college, the fourth as a full-time instructor, and my fifth year of teaching at the college level, generally. I am still young in the career, but I am not an untutored novice stepping into the front of the classroom for the first time.
Part also is that I have given much thought to the way in which I teach. I am happy to work with students who are also willing to work, and I am not going to waste time with those students who are not. Willingness to work has nothing to do with age, gender and orientation, racial/ethnic background, religious position, or socio-economic status, as I have long maintained.
No, what I do is offer guidance and direction to my students, showing them that the things I do can be done with enthusiasm and enjoyment--but that it is not easy to get to the point where they can be enjoyed. Practice, practice, practice, and more practice, with evaluation and criticism of performance are needed to get to the point where attention to the niggling mechanics is no longer necessary and the greater questions of when and how to deploy techniques can be addressed. In short, it takes a long time with the dull, repetitive work on fundamentals before sufficient competence can be achieved to have fun with things. And it is boring to go over a basic concept again and again and again...but that does not make it unnecessary.
It is a tacit lesson underlying much of my teaching.