Ten Things I’ve Learned About Being A Preceptor*
Preceptor* – fancy word for teacher
I don’t recall the date but I know it was a Friday in January of 2018. I also know I was nervous and on my own with about a dozen bright college students for 50 minutes.
That’s the first time I walked into a classroom in my role as a Florida Gulf Coast University preceptor for a journalism class called News Literacy. I’m pretty sure it was in Merwin Hall but I’m positive it was a first-floor classroom.
I also know I was uncertain about my suitability for this task. I was hired as a last-minute replacement in December of 2017 for another preceptor who bowed out because of a family emergency.
Now, unless the calendar in front of me is a Fake Calendar, it is January of 2022. Unless I’m employing Fake Math discussing a class where we seek to discern real and fake news, I’m starting my fifth year as a preceptor.
According to official university documents I’m a teacher, or preceptor if you will. But in my first eight semesters I’ve been something else unofficially. I’ve been a student, learning about myself, young people, the university and more.
Here is my list of 10 Things I’ve Learned in eight semesters over four years.
- I love teaching.
I never thought about pursuing teaching either as a career or a part-time gig through more than 40 years working for newspapers. But here I am. It’s rewarding in ways that can’t be measured in dollars and cents. The little things mean a great deal to me. It’s rewarding when students come up to me after class with questions or see me walking across campus and smile and say hello.
2. The Three C’s – Canvas, Checkology and Campus.
This Canvas has nothing to do with a boxing ring, where boxers who lose often used to be called Canvasback because their backs often ended up on the canvas. This is Canvas with a Capital C, the university’s learning management system. Checkology. Check what? It is an on-line, interactive News Literacy learning system used in the course. Not to be confused with Canvas. Campus is the 800 or so acres where FGCU is located. I know my way around all three a lot better now than I did four years ago this month.
I remember during that first semester as I was learning my way around Canvas, Checkology and campus a student asked me after class one day about the attendance policy. I told him I’d check and get back to him. Now, I simply say it’s on Page 8 of the syllabus and give them the basics.
4. Classroom discussions.
I learned in that first semester I revel in the classroom discussions, being the leader of chats while either standing in front of the class or walking about or sitting on a table.
5. The Role of a Lifetime.
Am I actually a teacher or simply pretending to be a teacher, much as an actor in a movie or play? I don’t know but it feels like teaching and I get the same rewards teachers get from seeing students progress and learn. It feels real to me.
6. Letters of recommendation.
The first time a student asked me to write a letter of recommendation I was stunned. I asked Professor Lyn Millner, founder of the school’s journalism program, what I should do. She said to write the letter. I wrote two during the fall semester and another two over Christmas break.
Now, the total might be 15 and each letter carries a profound obligation to help the student who asked for the letter.
7. Facebook and LinkedIn.
I don’t know how many students have reached out to me on these platforms but it is likely in double figures for both. Again, I am honored when a young person reaches out to this old-timer on either platform. Young people are more likely on Snapchat or Instagram or TikTok, I never signed up for any of those social media platforms so I have no idea what goes on at those sites.
8. Young people.
It’s invigorating spending time around bright, polite, inquisitive and positive people, most of them born early in the 21st century. Sometimes when I leave campus I stop by a nearby Target for grocery shopping.
Walking the aisles there I encounter people my age or even older, if that is possible, most of whom seem grumpy, many of them glaring and glowering and scowling.
I rarely if ever see a student glaring or glowering or scowling.
9. Email greetings with exclamation marks!
That’s how students sometimes address me in emails. Well, I also get addressed as “Professor.” I’m not a professor and should probably point that out in my replies. But most of those emails have simple questions or students are telling me they will be late or absent. It’s easier just to answer the email rather than diving into titles and going into an explanation about my status as a part-time instructor, or preceptor. I find the emails using my name or the honorific “sir” punctuated with exclamation marks sweet.
10. Missing it.
It’s been about a month since the fall semester concluded. The spring semester starts Monday.
In between semesters I learned that I miss it, miss it dearly.
I miss the students and the discussions and the emails and the energy and the campus.
Yes, I’ve learned that and much more since walking into Merwin Hall for the first time on that Friday in January of 2018. At least I think it was Merwin Hall.