…Reflections After First Year of Teaching

charlie-harutaka-221794.jpgCalifornia Baptist University is a wonderful place to be … in fact, many days, I wake up fearing that I will only snap out of this dream. I am able to walk to my classroom as I prepare my mind and heart for the tasks at hand; I am able to walk by statues or seating areas where memories flood my mind of times spent with my wife; I am able to play a small part in the formation of Christian theology in California.

CBU has become such a familiar place that it has become ingrained in the very fabric of my family’s life. Students love and take interest in my wife and my kiddos, and more.

This week marks the completion of my first full complete year of teaching at CBU. I thought it helpful for my own soul, my own psyche, and my own self to reflect upon the past year. The following are brief and succinct ideas that I have learned and experienced in my first year teaching. It is advice or reminders that I seek to give to myself.

  1. Imposter syndrome is very real. I know my discipline very well and I know where I have gapping conceptual holes — but I’m “waiting to be found out.”
  2. Anxiety and depression often carry and win the day. This first year was so fast and so slow, so busy and so freeing, but there is an odd feeling of University life hovering above you.
  3. I need personal validation and affirmation more than I initially thought. I need to hear the “oh that is helpful” or “that lecture needs work on these few points, but rest was helpful.” I do not necessarily need this from students, per se; peers and Sr. Professors have a very formative role in building confidence – or lack thereof.
  4. Hearing a student say, “Wow, why have I never seen this before” is among the greatest joys of teaching.
  5. Patience and self-confidence provide safe environments for your students to ask hard and pressing questions. A fearful environment is often caused through insecurities or impatience.
  6. There is a vast difference between overwork and hard work. Develop discernment to adjudicate the difference.
  7. Find a legitimate hobby beyond writing, reading, teaching, and university life. Your thoughts and body need time to unwind from a busy day.
  8. Walking helps cure the soul, free the mind, and allows time for solitude. Walk alone and walk with students.
  9. Purposely pause a busy day, be fine with falling behind on a few tasks, and enjoy a beautiful day. When you’re trying to stay above water and you live week to week, enjoy the gift of life and the sweet smelling air.
  10. Perfect your craft and dig deeply to know your discipline. Not only are you tasked with massive responsibility, but your students and professional peers will glean deeply from your expertise. Spending time with my department has helped me find my niche even more in New Testament and Early Christianity.
  11. Be teachable, be a team player, buy into the vision, and be patient in your relationships.
  12. Say “thank you” and work hard to recognize struggling students and other university workers.
  13. Find a peer and a Sr. Professor that you can ask and talk about honest issues of the soul, of the university, and of family life. These need to be safe environments to reflect openly and honestly.
  14. Especially in my ecclesial contexts, theological identity is important to know and to describe. Know the theological interests of the school, of the majority of faculty, and of influential faculty.
  15. Take time to develop rich, creative, and meaningful lecture material. Work hard to know the field, to know the primary literature, and make connections for your students.
  16. Enjoy your life and do things that make you happy.
  17. Enjoy the time with your family and your church community.
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