## New Adjunct Math Professor at Community College

Hello,

I am going to be a new adjunct math professor this semester at a community college, and I'm teaching precalculus (that's my only class). I am very new to teaching (I've never actually taught a class before although I've tutored in the past). I was just hoping to get some advice from teachers/professors on...what should I look out for, and what should I be aware of, as I begin this endeavor. I am incredibly excited because I've been wanting to do this for a long time, but very worried because I feel like I'm being "thrown to the wolves" so to speak, with no formal training in teaching.

Thanks.
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Recognitions:
 Quote by puzzlelover1 I am incredibly excited because I've been wanting to do this for a long time, but very worried because I feel like I'm being "thrown to the wolves" so to speak, with no formal training in teaching.
Turbo's advice is sound, and I can only add the suggestion that you continue to talk to experienced teachers about ideas.

Based on my own mistakes, I cannot emphasize enough the need to clearly communicate your expectations *on the first day of class*. That is- clearly tell the students what you expect them to do and know on an exam (proofs? applications? problem solving? multiple choice?). Talk to them about homework, grading policy, what they need to know already- and what tutoring is available if they don't, your availability, etc. etc.

Another good technique: if you are trying to make the class interact with you or each other (rather than passively write down what you say/write), be prepared to stand motionless for 30 seconds while you wait for a response. Count the time to yourself. It really takes some time before someone gets uncomfortable with the silence and speaks up.

Lastly, just know there is no one way to teach- don't be afraid to experiment. Keep what works and toss what doesn't.

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## New Adjunct Math Professor at Community College

Andy Resnick's point about setting expectations on the first day is very important. You must stick to your part of the contract, if you expect to hold students to theirs.

If you have control over the syllabus, less is better - it is best to have students understand the basics well.

Explain logically - start from the absolute basics, and don't leave out steps.

If you have a black board, write your notes out in full before class, with consideration of how you will space it on the board.

Use a conversational tone of voice.

Finally, as Andy Resnick says, teaching is an art like tennis - every game is different, and so is every student.
 Blog Entries: 8 Recognitions: Gold Member Science Advisor Staff Emeritus I think it's best to state your expectations every step of the way as well. For example, if you're leaving out a step (only do this if you really have to): state so explicitely. If you don't expect them to know what you left out: state so explicitely. If it's best to memorize a formula: state so explicitely. If they shouldn't memorize a formula, but rather know how to derive it: state so explicitely. Give lots of examples and counterexamples. Better yet: let the class come up with examples and counterexamples. Try to motivate each class by giving some kind of application, or something fun. For example: if you want to talk about geometric sequences you can talk about putting $10 in your bank and every year the amount doubles. What amount of money do you have in your bank after 50 years?? Let them guess and let them be amazed about how they're wrong. Be sure to prepare your class beforehand. You have to know beforehand what you're going to tell them, what questions you will ask to the class, what questions they could ask, what you will write on the blackboard, etc. Finally, I think it's all about quality teaching. Be sure that they understand what you're telling them. It's better to go slow than to teach a lot of things. Don't be afraid to assign things as required reading. Be aware that you have to teach for the average student. A lot of people will find your class boring because they find it easy, a lot of people will find your class impossible because they don't understand the stuff. Don't lower your level or don't higher your level for these people.  Thanks everybody for your feedback! I really appreciate it. I think my first day of class went OK; it's hard to know whether students are picking up on the material, but I did my best to get them to think about how they would solve the problem before I went ahead and did it. Hopefully there weren't people who were too lost. I guess I'll see how people do on the homework.  Speaking as a current student, I'd want to emphasize what someone else mentioned about a "conversational tone". One thing professors sometimes forget is that it can be very intimidating trying to talk to someone who is lightyears ahead of you in capability and knowledge. Crack a joke once in a while, even if it's corny. If you blank out for a moment, make a humorous comment about having lost your brain somewhere on 6th street. Try to strike a balance between humor and seriousness though. A professor who is too humorous can sometimes not be taken seriously. That's even worse than being the professor no one approaches. But other than that, I can't really say anything. Just a perspective from a student :) We really don't bite!  There have been great suggestions already. One more is to take a look at some of the better on-line lecture videos. Different profs have different delivery styles and you can think about what approaches you like or don't like. If you are familiar with a subject, start watching about lecture 5 when both the prof and the students have relaxed into the course. Ones I have found interesting from a teaching perspective: Auroux - Multivariable Calculus http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/mathemati...lus-fall-2007/ Frenkel - Multivariable Calculus http://webcast.berkeley.edu/playlist...CF868151394FE3 Su - Real Analysis I http://www.math.hmc.edu/~su/math131/ Gross - Abstract Algebra http://www.extension.harvard.edu/ope...stract-algebra Balakrishnan - Classical Mechaincs http://www.youtube.com/view_play_lis...4E56893588CBA8 Lots here - very different styles... http://www.uccs.edu/~math/vidarchive.html Of course, there are a lot more out there. YMMV. If you have the chance to sit in and watch some of the other teachers at your school, that is a good option as well. The advantage of video is that you can skip around and see more people in action.  Recognitions: Homework Help Science Advisor 1. examples teach more than explanations, use them. 2. learn your students' names so you can call on them. 3. prepare every night before class, for the rest of your life. (then the material goes through your mind all night.)  Recognitions: Gold Member You might want to contact FrancisZ via a private message or email (if his profile is set up for you to do that)... he's been teaching high school for years but started teaching at a community-college last term (he's not on much because he's been pretty busy "making ends meet" via this job, tutoring, etc... since as you know (and I know) teaching at any level generally makes poor monetary gains). I'd say (like micromass) that it's particularly important to make your course expectations pretty forward... both grading details via your syllabus... and then with regards to what you expect students to be able to do on your tests (via good teaching methods like examples, homework, sample tests if you have time... etc.) Recognitions: Science Advisor  Quote by micromass Try to motivate each class by giving some kind of application, or something fun. For example: if you want to talk about geometric sequences you can talk about putting$10 in your bank and every year the amount doubles. What amount of money do you have in your bank after 50 years?? Let them guess and let them be amazed about how they're wrong.
This can be interesting, but don't plan your lesson so that it hinges on someone being clueless and answering wrongly. Oftentimes there will be people in the class who have seen whatever it is you're talking about before, and they will answer 2^50 (about as much money as there is in the whole world!) When I see this happen and the teacher hesitates, unsure how to proceed, I find it a bit insulting. He was expecting us all to be stupid. If this happens over and over, it gets to be quite tiresome.

You would not expect a wrong answer on an exam, so don't expect a wrong answer in lecture, either. In fact, you should plan your lectures to reward right answers, and to respect your students' intelligence.