From Day One to Year Ten

TEACHER Think Bubble word cloud education concept on blackboard
Image source:

When I first started out as a teacher, I was terrified, as I’m sure anyone would be. I had always wanted to be a teacher, but the way I’d imagined the experience wasn’t exactly how it turned out to be. 

I’ve worked in after-school programs teaching English as a Second Language and I’ve been a substitute teacher, but when I got my first college teaching job, it was intimidating to say the least. I was going to teach adults in a more formal environment, and that word, “adults,” had always scared me because although I was a 22-year-old adult at the time, most of my students were older than I was! 

I started out teaching a part-time introductory psychology course for three hours a week. That didn’t seem too difficult, especially when I heard, “three hours,” but I had A LOT to prepare and learn before teaching each lesson.  Whether it’s for an introductory psychology course or any ESL course, I like to be as prepared as can be, knowing the ins and outs of my lessons, because, to me, it shows professionalism and dedication. That’s one thing I still believe to this day and something I’ve never been wrong about in my career.

However, even with all of the preparation and punctuality for everything I did, I still doubted myself.  I always wanted to be better than I was; enough was never enough.  My advice to you is to try not to think like that.  It’s easier said than done, but as long as you work hard, try your best, and support your students, everything else will fall into place. 

After my first introductory psychology class, I asked my students to provide me with anonymous comments on how I had done in teaching my first lesson of a college class, so that I could reflect on the feedback and be the best teacher I could be. After my students had written their comments and submitted them, I took them home to read. I was astounded at how heartfelt every single message had been.  Things such as “you’re doing great!” were written on the comment cards, and my jaw dropped.  Was I really doing “great”? Those comments helped me realize that my students were there for me, too, that as much as I supported them, they supported me in my teaching as well.  Because of the effectiveness of this, I still, at times, collect anonymous comments from students just to see how things are going in the first week, but we also have students complete one or two surveys throughout each course they are taking so as to give them an opportunity to share their thoughts about the program and their teacher.

After my second lesson, I got more and more comfortable teaching and could truly say, “I love my job!” because everything was falling into place the longer I taught. As the years of teaching go by, I’m still nervous about the first day of class, and I tell my students that so they don’t feel alone; they are all there with the same goal.  I also tell them that I was an ESL student at one point.  That always helps them feel more comfortable and accepted in their new environment. Teaching is my job and I’ll always love doing it even if, some days, things don’t go exactly as planned. You develop relationships and learn from your students just as much as they learn from you!

Martina Finnegan, being a former ESL learner from Bosnia, truly enjoys teaching ESL students! She has been teaching at Niagara College for 9 years and when she isn't in the classroom, she enjoys spending time with her family, going for walks, watching movies, and reading a good book!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *