Overhead Projectors, Scratched Chalkboards and… Mirrors? Oh MY! – Amy Hackney

ProjectorsThis past year I had the opportunity to teach my first university course. Not only was I the sole instructor, but I was also permitted to re-design the course. As a recent participant in both the Fundamentals of University Teaching and the Certification in University Teaching programs, I was extremely excited to apply the information I had obtained throughout the experience. Not surprisingly, I eagerly set to work to incorporate a variety of interactive activities, planned in-class mini assignments where I imagined that groups would work together on the whiteboards or in small pods of desks and even planned to spice up the course material by adding media teaching methods and resources. I was so excited and proud of my new course design. These students were in for the most interactive and engaging learning experience they have ever had, complete with all the bells and whistles.

Boy, was I ever in for a surprise.

No media center…
No moveable tables on wheels…
No white boards…

Instead, I walked into a classroom with an old overhead projector, fold-able chairs with squeaky armrests about the size of a single piece of paper and a worn out chalk board that was so well used it was nearly impossible for students to read off of. And to make matters worse, this “classroom” was an old fitness/yoga studio with mirrors. Yikes.

Cue a mini panic attack.

What was I going to do!?!?!! How was I going to implement everything I had planned and practiced in such an amazing classroom before?!?! This was going to be horrible. But as I stood at the front of the classroom, slightly defeated, wishing and hoping that maybe by slim chance nobody would show up… the door opened and my students walked in. No escape now. So I improvised.

Miraculously, things didn’t go so bad. Sure, there were some bumps along the way and a few friendly laughs at our “ideal” situation but I realized that it’s not the fancy equipment and swanky technology that makes for a good lecture, it’s the quality of the delivery, the time and care put into the planning and the motivation of the students. I didn’t need the desks and chairs on wheels to make discussion groups, or five white boards to demonstrate a topic. I didn’t need PowerPoint to delivery information or a funny video clip to get student’s motivated to participate. All I needed was the skills that I had obtained during my training (and a bit of creativity). Sure, having all these resources available to me would have been helpful and I hope that my teaching situation changes in the future. But for now having some flexibility, a willingness to adapt, a bit of creativity and confidence in my own teaching skills will do just fine.