(Dis)Connected Teaching

Updated: Oct 4

Janina Tosic

HS Ruhr West

After nine years as an academic developer, I went back to teaching last fall. A bit naïvely, I viewed this career change as an exciting challenge to finally apply everything I had learned about teaching and learning to a difficult teaching context, a large required Chemistry and Physics 101 module for engineering majors. I wanted to show everybody "how it is done."

I used Dee Fink’s approach (2013) to define a vision for my module, formulate learning outcomes on various levels, design teaching, and learning activities as well as formative and summative assessments. I had it all planned out and “just” needed to put this plan into action each week. Three weeks into the semester, I started to struggle. As a chemist, I had neither a recollection nor a deep understanding of the physics I was required to teach. I had to learn and relearn in order to prepare my lectures through our 15-week semester. I ended up working about 10 hours daily, with only four days off during the Christmas break. I was ashamed about missing subject expertise and consequently did not ask my mentor or my colleagues for help.

Of course, my 200 students noticed my mistakes, incompetence to answer questions, and inappropriate reactions when I was stressed and tired. They voiced their disappointment in a mid-semester teaching analysis poll as I did not meet their expectations of what a good teacher was. Again, I kept silent and did not seek support out of shame. For the first time since I started teaching in 2006, I did not enjoy it but dreaded it.

How could I confess to anybody that I was not good enough, that I was struggling, that I was, in fact, a failure?