PhD Survival Guide: What I learnt during my first year of teaching

I started teaching undergraduate psychology courses in the second year of the PhD. The first courses I taught were an introduction to psychology course & a sustainable tourism course, which was a great combination.

I learnt so much during this first year of teaching, things that stick with me today! 

1. I am more capable at public speaking than I thought:

I think the only way to improve your public speaking skills is just getting out and doing it. So teaching 5 classes a week was definitely great practice and I was surprised to find that it was actually easier than I thought.

2. That wearing bright outfits makes me feel more confident and comfortable:

I made it my mission to wear bright, professional, and unique outfits each week. This made me feel more comfortable, which definitely made public speaking easier. I even got positive comments on the outfit choices from the students.

3. That I can deal with awkward situations:

One of the things I feared most about teaching was standing at the front of the class and having no one answer my questions. Well that happened every week in one of my classes. I tried absolutely everything to engage them- I even made some funny (I think) jokes. It wasn’t fun standing up there, but it also wasn’t scary, I just dealt with it.

4. That I really enjoy teaching:

I always thought I would enjoy teaching (I was very close to studying teaching at uni), and this semester proved that I thought right.

5. That the little things make a difference:

Doing small things like replying to emails quickly, printing out the class slideshow for a student who has difficulty reading off the screen, or being available before and after class makes a big difference to the students.

6. That I know more content than I thought:

I was so nervous that I would not know the course content and that the students would see straight past my poker face & bright clothes and know that I know nothing. However, I realised that I have a thorough understanding of the content. You learn more during your PhD than it may seem.

7. That teaching is a good distraction:

When I am teaching I genuinely don’t think about anything else other than getting through those 50 minutes. It was a way for me to give my mind a break from everything else going on with the PhD for a little while.


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