By Jessica Lynch, Contract Instructor, School of Linguistics and Language Studies

Part 1: Before the first class

Joining the workforce after having been a full-time student for as long as I can remember is a little scary. Like any other major event or decision in life, it comes down to you finding a fit with the various opportunities available at the time and luck.

I was fortunate that modern languages was hiring American Sign Language (ASL) instructors for the fall term. The hiring process was a little slower than expected, which made me a bit anxious considering my need to make money to pay off my student loans. Since contract instructors are only required based on student enrolment, I was tempted to focus on finding a more permanent position instead. I am glad I did not.

I have always had a passion for teaching and helping others. Having been a tutor, dance teacher, camp councillor, teaching assistant and CTESL student, I had many years of teaching experience under my belt. This fall I would be teaching two first year ASL courses. I sat in on some of a full-time instructor’s summer classes along with another contract instructor, getting a feel for the classroom dynamic, teaching methods and first year curriculum.

Classes often consisted of a review of material covered in the previous class followed by the introduction of new concepts and vocabulary (in sign), occasionally supported by writing the English equivalent on the board. Students would then interact with each other to practice what they had learned. Of all the preparation I did for my courses, this is what helped the most. After class, the three of us would ask questions, give each other tips, discuss how to manage problems that might arise, and occasionally go over methods for grading and evaluation.

The best part about teaching at Carleton is that everyone is helpful and supportive. There is the perfect balance of individual accountability and team support. There is little dependence on others (with the exception of teaching a uniform curriculum), yet the support of other instructors or members of the Carleton community is there.

I had a great deal of help putting together my course outlines, dealing with technical issues, booking the computer lab for tests and getting ready for the school year in general. Spending time on campus really helps make the most of this valuable resource (other people) as in-person interactions tend to be more clear, efficient and productive than other forms of communication. There is a substantial amount of preparation before you ever set foot in the classroom.

In Part 2 of my blog, I will discuss my experience teaching the first class and the following weeks (or everything that happens before the student registration deadline).