Teaching at Langara College

So on a lark, I applied for a job as an instructor at Langara College.

I had heard from a number of people that teaching was fun. That the pay wasn’t bad. That I’d be good at it. That I should give it a shot.

I was terrified of the idea. I have always felt like I am a particularly self conscious person, and I have never thought of myself as a good speaker. I didn’t like the idea of being at the head of a class, a supposed authority on a subject. I’d feel like a sham. I’d actually be a sham. Furthermore, applying sounded stressful. I hadn’t had a job in over 5 years, being a freelancer, a job interview becomes one of those things you file under “things I am glad I will never have to do again”.

But then I heard about this opportunity at Langara College. They were looking for someone who could teach a course in Flash to a class of students in the Publishing program there. There was some part of me that wanted the challenge – I don’t think I would have applied if I wasn’t so scared of the possibility of actually getting the job. I wanted to apply to show myself I could do it. I wanted to be offered the job, and I wanted to be able to decline it just to prove to myself I could have had it if I wanted it.

I received an email shortly after putting in the application requesting an interview. Right on! I could go, then tell myself the money wasn’t good enough, or that I didn’t have the time, or whatever. I could give myself the ego boost of knowing that if I wanted a real job teaching, I could get it. Reading through the rest of the interview, however, it became clear that part of the process was to give a 15 minute demonstration on doing a motion tween in Flash to the hiring committee of 6 or 7 people.

Wait a second! That’s not me shmoozing my way into an offer by pouring on the big smile and the “I’ve worked with bigger clients than you” schtick. This actually involved teaching! being up in front of a bunch of eyeballs expected to talk knowledgeably. My stomach sank. This did not feel good. “I probably should just email back saying I am not interested”. That was my first thought.

I was actually in working on a show in Palm Springs when I got the email. The interview was to happen a day after I got back. This really wasn’t convenient. When would I learn how to prepare a lesson, then accomplish that same task?

Then I thought, well what’s the harm? Why not apply? If I totally blow it, I just don’t get the job. I probably won’t get it anyway. Who cares. I called up my friend Pat, He has instructed at Capilano College, at BCIT, and at a private institution in New Zealand. I asked him how to get through a fifteen minute lesson, and he told me what he usually did. Rehearse an exercise that demonstrates the task. Make a web tutorial showing how it’s done. Show it to the class and then make them do it. Simple!

I set to work in the hotel lobby on my laptop after checking out. I continued doing so at the airport while waiting for my flight. By the time I was home I had the lesson plan down pat. I wished I could just submit the plan and leave it at that. I really didn’t want to do the teaching part.

So when the interview came I was psyched up and good to go. I answered all the questions the committee asked me as well and honestly as I could. When they asked, “what are your strengths and weaknesses as an instructor”, I answered, “Well my biggest weakness would be that I have no experience teaching, at all”.

When it came time to deliver the 15 minute lesson, I was thinking there was no way I was getting this job. I thought, well, at least now I have an opportunity to see what it’s like at the front of a classroom.

I had my notes. I had rehearsed my exercise. I started teaching. I asked if there were questions. I asked if I could be heard. I cracked a self depricating joke. I got to the end and wished I had more to say. I was having fun. On my way out I thanked them for the experience. I figured I’d never see any of them again, but I had learned that teaching might not be so bad.

A few days later I was called and told I had the job. I didn’t hesitate – I knew I wanted it. I didn’t even give it a second thought.

I spent the next weeks putting together my course and realizing the levity of the responsibility I had undertaken. I still felt like a sham, and was afraid I’d deliver a lecture that would fall flat. The first one might have, I have very little memory of the event. I was so nervous I could barely see straight. The second one definitely did. Since then It’s improved steadily. I love teaching. I am trying to find a teaching job in Victoria. It’s rewarding and fun. Maybe it’s nice just to have a change, but it is really nice to be working with people who are making projects to learn and explore new knowledge, rather than just to make a buck.

It also could be my class. There are 28 students. I like them all. There isn’t one among them I’d be disappointed to learn I’d have to sit next to on a cross country flight. They work phenomenally well together – even though I haven’t assigned any group projects, I see them helping eachother out as if they were working in a group.

If there is one thing I have learned from this experience, it is that sometimes it is precisely the thing I am scared of that might be something I’d love. When I started the job application process I thought there was a good chance I’d be a terrible teacher, that I’d hate it, and that I’d regret doing it. There was something about it though – something I wanted to conquer or prove. I think I needed to prove to myself that many of my beliefs about my shortcomings are really just fear – I might have the ability to enjoy things I wouldn’t have known if I was too scared to try.

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