• Most college students are a little nervous when they arrive for the first class session. What about instructors? Is it acceptable for them to be nervous?

College Student Expectations

College students expect a lot from their instructors. They expect them to be:

  • experts in their fields;
  • excellent communicators; and
  • gifted teachers.

Sometimes, however, students’ expectations are not realistic.

The Real College Instructor

Yes, there are many great college faculty members who meet student expectations. But even these instructors may get a bit nervous during the first class session or two. They are beginning to evaluate their students, but they know their students are beginning to evaluate them. And, college students can be very judgmental.

Nerves May be a Source of a Problem

Every college instructor must start somewhere. There are times when every instructor teaches a course for the first time. College instructors are not ducks who are born intuitively knowing how to swim the first time they wade into a pond. Colleges cannot afford to give new instructors “practice classes” to work out the kinks. If they did, college students could not afford those classes, not even the wealthy ones.

Sometimes excellent instructors seem a bit nervous at the beginning. Students should not assume that this is a predictor of poor teaching performance. It may be, but students should give their instructors at least two class periods before forming any conclusions.

Approaching retirement, a college coordinator who hired me as an adjunct told me something I have never forgotten. She said she never felt she gave her students her best until the third time she taught a course. That helped me deal with the mistakes I made when I started. However, teaching mistakes are not something college students want to hear. They do not want to be the beta test student of a rookie instructor.

How College Students Should Deal With Nervous Instructors

There are several reasons why a college instructor may be nervous during the first class period or two. For example, he or she:

  • may be teaching the course for the first time;
  • may have been hired just a day or two before the first class; or
  • may have little prior teaching experience.

College students should do their part to make the first class session comfortable for all.  They should volunteer to speak.  They should ask questions.  Above all else, they should be attentive and respectful.

© 2011 Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

June 14, 2011

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