This is going to be a post about confidence. Confidence in yourself, confidence in others, others having confidence in you.
So here we are, back in Canada thanks to a new job at the U. I have yet to really start despite being on the books for about 10 days. I have been in to check out my office, make comments on what should be kept and what should be ripped out, that I would like it repainted to make it cheerier and what shape of desk I would prefer. I have filled out a bunch of forms on taxes, life insurance and retirement planning. I have been to the computer store to pick out my new toy that I’ll get next week. What I have not done is really think about the course I am going to teach.
I have been hired to teach a new course on lab techniques. A course with a lab component that they have just spent $300,000 on to buy new equipment. There are 3 people who are getting paid to set up, test out and run the labs, and I am not only teaching the course but the leader of the team. The new computer I bought was nearly $3000, and they OK’d the purchase because I justified it as having features I could use for teaching. They have confidence in me, they believe that I am going to bring this course together for them and make all this expense worthwhile for their students. I have had some faculty send me a note saying “we didn’t get to meet but I hear you are an excellent teacher”. I will be at the top of the salary scale for instructors (non-professors) before my contract is up because they wanted to entice me away from the other offers I had. They have confidence in me…
But, am I confident in myself? I think so…. “You think so?” you say? Yeah… I know that I have finally proven myself. I have been teaching where I am in class or lab 14 hours a week, in addition to that I have been prepping my own labs, writing brand new lectures, marking, meeting students, mentoring a few of them and keeping up with other responsibilities like committee meetings. I got the best student ratings this term I have ever had and beat the school averages on everything that matters. Compared to my last job this should be a piece of cake. I will be teaching 3 hours a week and just be overseeing the labs, making sure they work and doing the planning to make them better but having more detachment from the actual execution of it all. I should be able to do this with no problem at all, but still I have a bit of doubt. You never really know how a class is going to work until it has begun and the hardest thing is the first few lectures when you set the tone, set the pace and show the students what you expect of them. I need to make those students confident in me by doing a damn good job at the start. They will know that I am new, and let’s face it, that is sometimes all the reason they need to test you.
If it is one thing I have learned in the past 12-? years, it is that if I can’t be confident, I can sure act confident. This has really transformed me. If you are reading this you know who I used to be – a shy guy, an introspective guy, an un-confident guy. I’m not anymore and it is by sheer force of will that the change has occurred. You might call it the power of positive thinking, but it really has worked. You pretend to be confident, you pretend to be outgoing, you pretend that those smirks by students don’t make you want to hide under the desk when you’ve screwed up teaching something and you know what? Over time you ARE that person with the confidence.
Are you confident? Are people confident in you?