Congratulations on earning your first classroom teaching position! What now?
Here are some quick tips on how to prep your first college course as a professor and still feel like yourself at the end of the day. Like many flute performance majors who have climbed the academic ladder, it’s completely normal to be comfortable performing a Mozart flute concerto and still feel behind the curve when writing syllabi, prepping online course shells, developing your course assignments, and fielding student grade complaints. Transitions are inevitably difficult, but you can do this! Here are a few tips:
Get access to your school’s online system as soon as possible. This seems like it would take care of itself on its own, but it might not. Things that can slow your online access down are often as simple as completing an online FERPA training or submitting your direct deposit information to payroll. A lot of academic staff take vacations in the summer, so odds are good the person who needs to create your new email address and online credentials will be out of the office. Don’t delay in following up with your new faculty checklists. I’ve used CANVAS and Blackboard at different schools, and there’s a learning curve to both. Find out what yours will be and start watching youtube instructional videos ASAP.
Ask the Music Coordinator for a copy of the previous syllabus for your course. This will give you a sense of what a normal assignment load is in the program and how the previous instructor complied with school expectations. Your new faculty orientation will most likely go through all recent updates to university-wide syllabus requirements, so be sure to follow the latest template when creating yours. They may even provide an online “course” for new faculty in CANVAS or Blackboard with templates to download.
Find out if your course needs to comply with specific curriculum targets. In other words, does it need to require a research paper or presentation? Do students have to pass outside tests to get teacher certification in this subject? Students may want your course to be easier, but it is not good if those who get high grades in your class fail teacher certification tests in your subject area. Explain why your course is rigorous and why doing well in it will benefit students. Always make a case for why it matters to be a great writer in addition to the student’s major. This is essential for writing great graduate school applications, recommendation letters, and grants down the road. That said, don’t overdo it. Make sure every assignment has a learning goal that is clear, justifiable, and doesn’t create more work than a typical class at that course level warrants.
Get a desk copy of the adopted texts for your course and your online sign-in credentials from the publisher(s) now. You can request these from the publisher(s) for free once you know what they are. In a best case scenario, your new colleagues will have some books on hand to lend to you until yours come in. You will still want to email the publisher ASAP to get access to any online content associated with the texts. A lot of music history and theory textbooks now offer online quizzes that are graded in their system. You can usually customize the questions once you create a course set. Be sure to include all registration information in your syllabus if you use a system like this for grading so students understand the expectations. Online resources often provide downloadable powerpoint presentations for each chapter, test banks, music examples, and more. Use them and adapt them to your course. Get started as early as possible.
Ask specific questions! One of the easiest mistakes to make in your first classroom teaching job is to not know something all of the other faculty know. Your program may offer you a comprehensive guidebook or enthusiastic mentor for new faculty, or it might not. Find out who the most organized and approachable faculty members are and schedule a meeting to go over what you know and don’t know yet about using the online platform, attending meetings, or adopting curriculum.
Make allies and have fun. Teaching in a classroom setting is a great way to get to know a lot of students quickly in your program and establish your reputation as an engaging expert in your field. Be yourself. Communicate course deadlines and expectations clearly. Be fair and don’t delay in grading. Most importantly, find time to meet with other faculty in your area and build your confidence as you see what works best for teachers and students in your new program. As a performer, you already know a lot about how to focus and succeed. Have fun discovering new skills as you adapt to this new environment!
Ellen Johnson Mosley is the Visiting Assistant Professor of Flute and Music History at Morehead State University. Her ongoing work as a flutist and advocate for the arts has led to many collaborative flute performance and service opportunities throughout the United States. Currently, she is the Principal Flutist in the Cave Run Symphony Orchestra and performs chamber music in the Baird Winds Faculty Quintet, Traverso Colore Baroque Flute Ensemble, Tornado Alley Flutes, and the Ad Astra Music Festival. Dr. Mosley has also performed as a concerto soloist with the Cave Run Symphony, Delano Chamber Orchestra, Morehead State University Symphony Band, and the Concordia University Symphony. She is a passionate advocate for community engagement and serves as the Vice President of the Flute Society of Kentucky, grant writer for the National Flute Association’s Development Committee, commissioning member of the Flute New Music Consortium, and Board Member of the Cave Run Symphony Society. Schools that have welcomed her as a Guest Artist/Clinician include Emporia State University, Stephen F. Austin State University, Kansas State University, Southwestern Oklahoma State University, and the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Mosley holds flute performance degrees from Florida State University (D.M.), the University of Texas at Austin (M.M.) and Wichita State University (B.M.). Her flute teachers include Eva Amsler, Marianne Gedigian, Karl Kraber, and Frances Shelly. Dr. Mosley lives in Lexington, KY with her spouse and their beloved dog, Siegfried, a border collie/lab mix.
Prior to her appointment at Morehead State University, Dr. Mosley served as Principal Flutist of the Delano Chamber Orchestra for five seasons and as the Manager for the Wichita Symphony Youth Orchestras Program. She also held faculty positions at Butler Community College in El Dorado, KS and Concordia University in Austin, TX. Her past service activities include board membership for the Austin Flute Society, George B. Tack Memorial Flute Committee, and Delano Chamber Players. Dr. Mosley was elected as President of the Austin Flute SocietyBoard (2010-2011) and Chair of the Career and Artistic Development Committee (2011-2016) for the National Flute Association. She is a 1998 First Prize Winner for the Tack Award for Excellence in Flute Performance and a 2003 Finalist in the Williams-Reck Competition. In recognition of her Summer Flute Ensemble Initiative, Dr. Mosley was awarded a Gunstream community engagement grant from the College Music Society in 2009.