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Quick background; I study Computer Science and have been asked to take the role as a paid student teacher for college students.

I am extremely nervous about it, although it's a fairly familiar role as I'll be teaching what I learned only three years previous.

I'm far from the extrovert type and as such, find it really difficult to hold a room. How do I keep the attention and respect of students that are almost my age?

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    I think your main problem would be how to discipline students. They know that you are young, inexperienced, and that you will not do anything that could cost you your job. They will "test the waters" by misbehaving. See the answers to this question. – Joel Reyes Noche Oct 13 '13 at 14:13
  • This question appears to be off-topic - it's an undergraduate asking about teaching pre-degree education – EnergyNumbers Oct 13 '13 at 17:02
  • Agreed. This is not really the site for this question. See our help center page for more information. There is not a currently operating Stack Exchange network site for educators, but one has been proposed. Go support area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/50826/education – Ben Norris Oct 13 '13 at 18:22
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    @EnergyNumbers Since when is undergrad teaching off-topic here? – earthling Oct 13 '13 at 23:46
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    @EnergyNumbers I interpret "for college students" to mean that the students are in college. In the US, college means university. – earthling Oct 15 '13 at 0:25
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Calm down! easier said than done. Remember you know more than they do but do not put on a suit that does not fit. If you get questions you cannot answer, do not get nervous, simply say: it is a good question and you will check up the answer. Don't start putting out excuses that you are inexperienced, haven't done this before, or whatever. Let what you do speak for itself, I am sure it is more than fine.

Now that the emergency is over, what can you do? Be prepared. Check out the material ahead of time and if you are in a lab or have to help out in exercises, run through them yourself to figure out where problems may arise. This takes a little time but will help you run things smoothly. In the case of a lecture situation, you also need to be prepared, read up on the material, make a good series of slides. Show what you plan to do to someone more experienced to perhaps get feedback and pointers on improvements. A typical rookie mistake is to overwork things, put too much stuff into a lecture and set the level too high. Assessing the right level is something you learn but if you have a chance to look at others' lectures or perhaps go back to what you experienced, you may be able to find your level quicker.

If yo want a quick check on what you have done you can do a quick feedback at the end. Give each person a small piece of paper (e.g. index card) and have them write one or a couple of things they found good on one side and something they think could be improved on the other. Do not use the word "bad" on that side, you want to know what you did well and what might improve. Collect the feedback and check it immediately. It may help you get a sense of how you came across. You can do this on a regular basis if time permits.

In the end, it is tough to get started, we have all been there with different amounts of self-confidence, experience etc. Expect some things to go less well, it is bound to happen, we all have off days. If something is less well, use it to improve. Use your colleagues as support if you find it rough, everyone has some experience of that sort.

I wish you luck. It can be really fun to teach. Look for pointers on teaching on the web and check out journals for higher ed. teaching to get ideas. There is no reason to approach teaching less seriously than what one would do, say research. The butterflies you will inevitably feel when you start will disappear and your confidence will grow with experience. Just keep calm and on top of matters.

  • Thanks you so much for such a detailed reply, I really like the idea of a practical feedback sheet at the end of lessons, as far as I'm aware it's not something that is used in this institution but I think it could be really beneficial. – Wizard Oct 13 '13 at 13:42
  • @Bara'thorn You could perhaps ask this as a new question since the comments are not intended for a discussion format. There is also the chat for such discussions. Also note that questions on undergraduate issues and not relating to academia are likely to be set "on hold". Your question is fine for all new teachers so you could perhaps phrase them more generally. – Peter Jansson Oct 13 '13 at 17:33
  • To the "down-voter": From the help "voting down a post signals [...] that the post contains wrong information, is poorly researched, or fails to communicate information. In order for me to understand how my answer fits one or several of these criteria, a comment would be much appreciated. – Peter Jansson Oct 13 '13 at 17:35
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A few tips:

  • Practice. Get some friends, go to an empty room, and practice. Practice in front of the mirror. Practice in the street, in the subway, in line at starbucks, and at the bar(well you're <21 so that might not work). You want people to look at you. To stare at you. To ask, "who the hell is that and what the heck is he talking about?"
  • Prepare. Obviously, come prepared.
  • Get over yourself. Chances are that your first lecture will be awkward. Possibly very awkward. But then it'll get better and you'll eventually know what you're doing.
  • Identify with the students. They're roughly your age so it'll be easier to identify with them. As a student, you know how you wanted to be taught and what you wanted to hear. Follow that.
  • Responsive. Be responsive to the class. Don't shy away. There's no benefit for anyone.

Have fun!

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