I have learned skills valuable to my future in academe through my three formal leadership roles: Lead for the CU Graduate Teacher Program, peer mentor for the CU Graduate School, and maître de langue for the English Department at Université Paris 13. Through each, I not only acquired skills that improve my own pedagogy, but I learned much about the role of leadership among peers, in particular the importance of leading by example. By demonstrating my own investment in and commitment to research, pedagogy, and professional development, I encouraged others to do the same, both implicitly and explicitly.
During the final two years of my PhD, I have served as Lead for the Graduate Teacher Program to the French and Italian Department. As part of this position, I work alongside the language coordinators to train new graduate teachers in the department as well as provide continued support for experienced and returning graduate teachers. This includes running consultative microteaching sessions during new graduate student orientation week and completing non-evaluative videotape consultations with all graduate students in their first semester of teaching. Both of these types of consultations are designed to encourage graduate teachers to develop the habit of self-reflection on their own teaching. Facilitating these types of non-evaluative peer consultations benefited me directly in two distinct ways: learning new approaches to self-assessment of my teaching and developing questioning skills that lead others to probe deeper into their own thinking (a skill that has improved my feedback/questioning practices in my own classroom). As these new teachers often came to observe my classes as part of their pedagogical training, I learned to better articulate my own teaching philosophy and approaches. During my second year as Lead, this responsibility also includes training the new teacher-trainers in the GTP’s methods for consultative microteaching and videotape consultations that they will perform with the graduate teachers in their own departments.
As Lead, I conducted discipline-specific workshops within my department as well as leading workshops as part of the GTP teaching workshops series for graduate teachers from departments all across campus. I have led three discipline-specific workshops for instructors in the French and Italian Department, one on creating effective communicative activities (given twice because of its success and need) and one on designing and teaching content courses for the first time. I also led a workshop in the Teaching Strategies series for the GTP on using phone and tablet gaming technology in the classroom. By choosing and organizing these workshops, I gave myself the opportunity to explore deeper teaching approaches from a new perspective. Due to the positive response, the workshops are also posted on my website (jessicajappleby.com) so that those who could not attend the workshops also have access to the material. In an attempt to foster collegiality and teamwork among the graduate students in our department, I organized a workshop on collaborative writing strategies during which attendees formed groups or pairs and developed writing plans for which they will hold each other accountable. As we will remain colleagues in our fields for our careers, it is essential to invest in each other’s research now. The personal value of incorporating teamwork into tasks that are normally considered solitary (such as article and dissertation writing) leads to increased productivity and decreased stress and isolation. As this fills such a need in the department, I am implementing this program as a legacy project so that future cohorts can develop the habit of collaborative writing as well.
During my final year, I am participating in the Graduate School’s pilot peer mentoring program. Through mentor training provided by the CU Graduate School, I developed new skills for supporting peers through difficulties in graduate school and for offering potential solutions to student concerns. My mentee is a first-year MA student in the history department, and my interactions with him have taught me the importance of interacting with colleagues from other fields to avoid becoming too insular in our own departments. Collaboration between departments allows new opportunities for support and perspectives on difficulties that arise. The experience has been enriching as it is both similar to and different from my relationship with the first-year graduate teachers in my own department. While those relationships focus on the classroom, this mentorship focuses more on the student role, especially as my mentee is not currently teaching. I have therefore learned to connect with and help others both within and out of the classroom context.
Before either of these positions, I served as maître de langue in the English Department at Université Paris 13. In addition to teaching, the responsibilities of this position included training the new lecteurs (on exchange from graduate programs in Britain, Ireland, and the US) and organizing the courses in phonetics, oral expression, and listening comprehension. As most of the new teachers had no experience with the phonetic alphabet, I arranged documents and packets for them that provided the basis of their course materials. This position was a challenge due to the lack of structure and organization in the department, therefore I learned about the importance of collaboration and collegiality within a department. Difficulties arise with too little direction and the absence of cohesive goals for the program as a whole. Fostering collegiality among the members of the department who work towards shared learning objectives for their students creates a more positive experience for students and teachers alike.