Graduate Student Teaching Matters: A Conversation with Aeron Haynie and Stephanie Spong

This semester, we’re keeping graduate student teaching at the center (for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship). Along with our normal busy slate of workshops and other offerings designed to help graduate students grow as teachers, participants in CNDLS’ Apprenticeship in Teaching (AT) Program will be in conversation with the ideas—and the authors themselves—of a much-needed new book: Teaching Matters: A Guide for Graduate Students (Haynie & Spong, 2022).

“When we first started working on this book,” co-author Stephanie Spong told us, “I was motivated to write because I was excited about the intellectual endeavor of teaching as a graduate student but never really found support for that in my area of study. I wanted other graduate students to feel like they could be recognized for their teaching efforts—and have a solid resource to guide them when they felt uncertain about their teaching choices.” Spong is the associate director for the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and affiliated faculty with the Department of Organization, Information, and Learning Sciences at the University of New Mexico (UNM).

Similarly, co-author Aeron Haynie, executive director of the CTL and associate professor of English at UNM, points to a need to prepare graduate students more intentionally for the classroom, and so set out to write a book “that was more engaging, more comprehensive, and more honest in addressing what is sometimes a disconnect between what grad students are told about teaching and the jobs they end up getting.”

Both authors cited the importance of community-building for developing teachers. In Haynie’s words, “This involves being interested in your students as individual human beings, creating some trust, and getting regular feedback from them. Having a positive classroom community also generates energy and makes teaching more enjoyable and this energy can be used to refine and explore other techniques. But you have to care about the students (and communicate this to them) first, before anything else.”

But of course the discussion of community-building is just the tip of the iceberg; Teaching Matters is full of great, helpful, concrete advice and insights. Graduate students—whether you’re otherwise active in the AT Program or not—are welcome to join us for the book club, which meets via Zoom from 11:00am-12:15pm on September 22, October 6, October 20, and November 10. The authors will join us to discuss the book on October 20th! AT Program participants who attend at least three of the four sessions will receive credit for an elective workshop. Register here and join us in our first meeting tomorrow! Lauinger Library has a copy for borrowing, and there are some free copies available in the CNDLS main office in Car Barn 314.

As Spong says, “No one has to do this alone, and I hope graduate students feel motivated to support one another as a result of reading this book.”