I can answer more about the second item, although in a different context. I teach adults in a professional context (software company) and have done for about 15 years. I’m also doing a Masters, although we don’t seem to have the same TA idea here, and I have had to do presentations/teaching sessions as part of that.
When I first started teaching I was terrified. I also got pretty mediocre feedback (not bad, just … meh) from my students for the first few months. I came very close to quitting. What saved me was that I decided that if I couldn’t bear to do it, I could at least pretend to be someone who could do it! It became a case of ‘fake it till you make it’ essentially. After a while I realised that the penny had just dropped. I’ve observed the same thing happening again and again with new trainers, at some point it’s palpable that it’s just clicked for them. So, generally, I’d say - give it a go, assume you can do it, and it may well just gel for you after a bit of practice.
I realise that’s borderline comforting, but of no real help. I believe it helps if you concentrate on controlling the mechanics of your teaching, which will help you become more comfortable with it. So here are some more concrete tips which I’ve learned, feel free to use what’s useful and ignore the rest (or all of it, if none of it’s new to you):
- You know more than they do, believe that and act like you do and you’ve won half the battle. I’m not suggesting arrogance, but don’t believe that your ignorance will be obvious. They’re not out to trip you up.
- Actually, in some senses they are out to trip you up! What I mean by that is that confidence, or the appearance of confidence is all. Don’t give them any chances to think less of you, they’ll take them. Specifically, a lot of people, particularly women, in my experience, use self-deprecating humour as a defence mechanism in normal life. It’s socially acceptable and and very useful. Don’t use it when teaching adults. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen a presentation begin with some throwaway putdown the speaker uses about themselves: ‘sorry about this slide, don’t know what I was thinking’ ‘you probably know that already’ ‘sorry it’s a bit wordy’ etc etc. In this situation you’re just inviting the students to agree that you’re shite, and subconsciously they may well do so. However tempting it is, it is NOT going to get them on your side.
- Have a story - a good presentation, whatever the subject, has an internal narrative. It’s the only way you will get people to follow you to the end, IME.
- Lots of people like to rehearse, so if it works for you, do so, in front of a friendly audience if you like. I don’t, I’m a fairly haphazard type of person, plus I hate teaching people I know, it makes me feel that my control of the situation is compromised.
- I’d recommend against a script per se, but notes may help you until you’re very experienced.
- Presentation and teaching/lectures are different - decide which one you’re doing. Teaching/lectures are about imparting more concrete information IMHO and you need to be checking for understanding and encouraging discussion.
- Physically: don’t talk to the board, talk to the group; make eye contact but not in a creepy way; smile but don’t grin like a buffoon; double the energy you think you should be using, to keep them engaged; don’t pace but don’t sit down or stay rooted to the spot; don’t grip a lectern or a desk or use it as a barrier; don’t fiddle with coins, keys, clothes or anything else.
After this long, I still have an adrenalin rush when I teach - I think the day that goes I’ll stop, it’ll be dull after that. One last point - I think it’s a fallacy to assume that only outgoing people enjoy this job. In my experience my colleagues and I are actually a mix of massive ego and real shyness. We’re all quite nervous of normal social situations, but see the classroom - that’s YOURS. It’s your own little domain and the success or failure of a session is yours and yours alone. Actually we’re all massive control freaks
Good luck! Hope you come to love it.