Society for the Teaching of Psychology: Division 2 of the American Psychological Association

Reflections on the Past Year

09 Dec 2022 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

This month’s corner is meant to address the many experiences we as graduate students have had over the past calendar year, and to highlight what we have been thankful for as we continue to grow as instructors.

Authors: William Ridgway, Madeline Bruce, Skyler Mendes, Jackson Pelzner, and Morgan Franklin

William: Similar to each year as a doctoral student, there is much that takes place. This past year is no exception. From working with an amazing team of GSTA graduate students, to the development of forensic-based courses, to meeting with fellow instructors at STP’s 2022 annual conference, this year has certainly provided me with many joyful memories. Prior to serving as GSTA Chair, I have always had a love for teaching. I suppose in many ways, my time spent lecturing came naturally; however, I owe much of my foundation to my teaching mentor, Wayne Weiten. I will always be thankful for the time spent learning from him, and the opportunities I have and continue to be provided. In fact, as I reflect on the last year, I am perhaps reminded most of the influence we as instructors have. The extent to which we commit ourselves to teaching and mentoring plays a notable role in the lives of our students. Our presence and how we show up for our students can go on to change the very course of their academic journey. Given that graduate programs can lack an emphasis on the importance of teaching, it’s crucial that anyone who ever takes on the position of an instructor, ensures that they do everything they can to be prepared and to make a positive impact. Overall, this year and my experiences both in the classroom, and outside of it, will be remembered fondly.

Mads: The past year was notable, both personally and professionally. My partner and I moved 800 miles to Houston, TX for my internship year, which is the last year of a clinical doctoral program! Teaching is unfortunately not a part of my duties right now, but through the year, memories and future ideas for teaching have kept me grounded. As it is my last year as a student, I’ve tried to dive into topics and roles where I have little to no experience, and sometimes, I’ve gotten a lot of water in my nose. Sometimes things are smooth, and sometimes, it feels like a tsunami. And during a particularly turbulent week, what kept me afloat was a phone call from my mentor. Swimming and other water-based metaphors aside, I am grateful to have been taught by thoughtful teachers and to enter this field to do the same, because through each hardship, I’ve found myself asking, “What if a student came to me with this situation?” I find I’m perhaps my best self when I think about what I would do if I were to teach about what I’m encountering. A thoughtful, compassionate voice often comes through with some empowering advice. I’m grateful for teaching and learning. Cheers to more lessons in 2023!

Skye: I find myself reflecting this year on my gratitude for mentorship. For the faculty reading, please know how much of an impact you have when you help graduate students (or others in your sphere of influence) pursue their interests in teaching. As GSTA members, many of us are in PhD programs built on mentorship models in research training but few (if any) formal structures for mentorship in teaching. I have learned a great deal this year from my informal group of teaching mentors who show up like a loyal Avengers team around me whenever I send up even the smallest flare seeking guidance. They have served as my biggest cheerleaders and sagacious sounding boards throughout 2022 while I taught two new courses. I am deeply thankful to have them in my corner, from navigating the (thankfully quite rare and small) challenges along the way while teaching those courses, to helping me make major decisions about my next teaching employment while I embark on 2023 and the final year of my program in nonresidence. I would also like to name and thank several of these people. I feel deep gratitude for the connections I have with two of the teaching faculty at my University, Carolyn Cavanaugh Toft and Christina Pedram at Arizona State, who have been frequent sources of shrewd advice and supportive reassurance. Next, it has been one of my greatest joys this year to reconnect not only personally but also to begin collaborating as colleagues with my former undergraduate advisor, Michael Spiegler of Providence College, who supervised my work as an undergraduate interteaching coach 10+ years ago, and who now provides support while I supervise my own crew of outstanding coaches. Michael and I have this very publication, STP News, to thank for that reconnection spark, since Michael reached out after recognizing my bio that appeared in the April issue! Last, I’d like to give a shoutout to the STP Professional Development Mentoring program which connected me this summer with a formal teaching mentor, Sarai Blincoe of Longwood University, who has provided savvy insights throughout the last year. As 2022 comes to a close, I give heartfelt thanks to these and all of the mentors across STP (formal or not!) who have helped graduate students navigate their adventure in teaching.

Jackson: This past year has been another successful year of growth and learning as an instructor. At the start of 2022, I made significant strides with improving my course structure and automating many of the mundane tasks that instructors must endure as part of their job. For example, I was able to eliminate, or otherwise significantly reduce, the time spent answering redundant emails by creating a frequently asked questions document that students use as a supplemental resource. The best part is that some students have reached out to personally tell me how much they appreciate having that resource when they have questions about the course that are not explicitly outlined in the syllabus. I think as instructors it’s important to provide all the tools necessary so that students can devote more time to studying and less time waiting for a reply, especially if several students have the same question. I’m especially grateful to GSTA and the rest of our committee members for a great year. Thank you for this opportunity to meet some very impressive graduate student instructors and for all the great discussions we’ve had during our monthly meetings.

Morgan: As I reflect on my experience teaching, I am always grateful for the relationships I build with my students and mentors. When we consider teaching, we often think about the ways in which we may impact and educate students. However, I find that in my teaching my students have also challenged and inspired me in my work as an instructor and psychologist. While I have not engaged in teaching in the fall semester, I have found other ways to engage in informal instruction (i.e., assisting colleagues who are teaching and mentoring students. I am always grateful for the insights I gain from students in the student-instructor relationship.

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