Dear Future Preceptor (letters from preceptors)

What follows are letters  by former preceptors about their experiences.

Dear Future Preceptor,

First off congrats on being asked to be a preceptor. This is something you should be proud of. First off precepting demands a lot of time and on occasions headache. While the work you will do as a preceptor really won't be all that challenging you must understand that you need not only act as a faux professor but also as a mentor, support system and friend. There will be some kids that you don't like and that act as iff they don't care about the class. This is fine. They won't last long. Do not spend to much effort going after these lost causes. focus your efforts on those that both want to be in your class working hard, and F&M in general. As far as tips go I don't have many. Don't overcomplicate simple situations, simply do what you think is best. Often times your immediate thoughts on how to handle a situation are correct. Also understand and think back, chances are you been placed in situations similar to this and have succeeded. My only other advice is not to be scared to speak with other preceptors or your professor regarding problems that you or any of your students are having. These are exactly the types of things that you professor wants to hear. All in all, have fun, learn and try to pass on all the knowledge that you have gained here at F&M to your students. They will thank you in the long-run.

Dear Future Preceptor,

Congratulations! I am sure you are feeling just as excited and nervous as I was. Precepting has been a wonderful and challenging experience. First off, if you are precepting as a fifth class—don’t panic! It’s definitely doable, the biggest piece of advice I could give you would be to meet with your professor as soon as possible and try to complete the course readings far in advance (over winter or summer break). Your professor will obviously be a huge asset to you this semester, so set up a time to meet with them weekly to go over how the course is progressing, etc. Another huge asset is the other preceptors who will be taking this course with you. You will grow individually and collectively, and your fellow preceptors will be experiencing the same confusions, frustrations, and emotions you are feeling. If you have a success or a setback in your class, bring it up for discussion in INT 480! We are all here to help one another, and I received great advice this semester from fellow preceptors. Believe in yourself and your abilities (you wouldn’t have been selected if your professor didn’t think you had the right skills), and have fun!

Best of luck,
S

Dear future preceptor,

Congratulations! You are most likely experiencing a multitude of feelings right now. First, you should absolutely be proud of being asked to fill this position. It means your professor really trusts you! That being said, the second thing that’s probably going through your head is that you’re terrified of taking on this incredible responsibility. Don’t freak out! I did a little bit at first (actually, for about half the semester), but once you get into the groove of the work it’s really not so hard. Of course, you will experience moments of uncertainty, big or small, but this is no reason to panic. You are not expected to know everything, and it’s always okay to ask your professor for advice. This is a learning experience for you as much as it is an opportunity for you to help a professor lead a class, so don’t hesitate to ask questions. You also don’t need to worry too much about knowing everything if your students ask you questions. They understand that you are not omniscient, and they will forgive you if you don’t have the answer to everything. You can always get back to them once you have more information. They won’t hold it against you. Just make sure you act like yourself around them and they will respect you. The main thing to be aware of with your students is where the line between “friend” and “superior” lies, which is something you can figure out as you go along. Don’t let this opportunity make you uncomfortable or nervous. Enjoy it to the fullest! You can do it!

Dear Future Preceptor,

First of all congratulations! You are about to experience something over the next semester that the vast majority of students here do not get to be a part of! I'm sure that you are feeling a huge combination of nerves and excitement. In fact I almost shied away from this experience mainly because I wasn't sure if I had what it takes. I want to let you know that you do in fact have what it takes, and more than that too. Your professor would not have selected you for this position if they did not believe that you could handle it. With that being said it is totally normal to be feeling nervous and overwhelmed. The keys to being a successful preceptor are very similar to those of being a good student. You must stay organized, be persistent, work hard, and maintain excellent communication with your students and your professor. Speaking on that point, you will most likely become very close with your professor, and that is a key part in how successful you are as a preceptor. The more comfortable you are with your professor, the more you will feel inclined to involve yourself in the class. You have the power to add something very unique to the classroom dynamic! So don't shy away from it. Chances are you will have a big interest in the class you are precepting, so harness that energy and bring it to class with you! Last tip that I have is to maintain a healthy relationship with your class. You will need to find a balance and for that rely on your fellow preceptors as they are in the same position you are and have great advice to give!

Best of luck!
B

To Whom It May Concern:
At this point in time, you have accepted a position as a preceptor and are probably beginning to wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into. At the start of this semester, I certainly was. Let me give you some hints:
1. Interacting with students during class makes a huge difference. If they are working in small groups, sit with one. This is a chance for you to assert your knowledge about the subject material while also making yourself more approachable.
2. The students will probably not come to your office hours. Making yourself approachable in and out of class helps. You can also send email reminders about your hours or send a sign up sheet around during class. Lastly, consider changing the structure of office hours- making them a collective study hall where the class can work out their assignments together with you as a resource helps.
3. If you’ve made some connection to the students, teaching a class isn’t that intimidating. The students are receptive to your style because they already respect, and hopefully like, you. It is important to keep in mind that they are students too and understand that you are not an expert teacher.
4. Lastly, outside of class you will run into your students. Wave at them! Stop to say hello! You may have relationships already built with these students. That’s okay- just be careful to maintain boundaries between when you are their preceptor and when you are x,y,z.
Enjoy your time as a preceptor. You will learn a lot about what it means to be a teacher and a student. Congratulations and good luck this semester!
Former Preceptor

Dear future preceptor,

Congratulations on being chosen by your professor for this unique role that few F&M students get a chance to fill! If you're like me, you're probably feeling excited, yet also quite nervous and apprehensive about your new role in the classroom. That's totally normal! Just remember that you were chosen for a reason and your professor trusts that you are up to the challenge and must be impressed with you already! My advice to you would be to establish a good relationship with the professor you will be working with and ensure that communication between the two of you is frequent and productive throughout the semester. Don't be afraid to ask questions, offer suggestions, or take constructive criticism. This is your opportunity to learn from the other side of the desk so to speak! Secondly, don't be afraid to either lead a class or lead a class discussion. Personally, the idea of both of these made me nervous and I really didn't want to do either, but those are probably the times where I felt like I learned the most from the precepting experience. The students in the class won't think you are dumb if you don't know an answer to the question and they will be willing to engage with your discussion more than you anticipate them to. All in all, don't be afraid to take challenges, be accessible for the students outside of class, and have fun learning in a new way!
 

Dear newly-selected preceptor,

This upcoming semester is going to be full of new challenges, new experiences, and alternately empty and overflowing office hours. Though I'm still learning with every class and with every meeting with my students, there are a few things that I hope you'll find helpful.
1) Your attitude toward the class determines many of the students' attitudes. Though some will come in already invested in the topic and some will likely be hopelessly disinterested, the majority will take their cues from you for engagement and effort. My professor and several of my students have told me that on the few occasions I've had to miss our class the discussion has been lackluster and quiet. If you care about the topics and help to encourage their ideas, the whole class will benefit.
2) Always do the reading for the class. Even though you don't have to turn in any of the homework, it is beyond embarrassing when one of your students asks a question about the readings and you don't know the answer. Worse than the embarrassment is that they won't necessarily come to you in the future with questions you do know the answer to. Though this reading will likely slide to the bottom of the priority list behind your other classes, don't let it fall totally off your radar.
3) Talk to you professor! Making sure you and your professor are telling the students the same thing is incredibly important. This is true for assignments in general, but especially true for specific feedback on a student's work. Getting the same message from both of you will not only keep the student from becoming confused, but it will reinforce the idea in their mind.
As my semester as a preceptor comes to a close, I realize that I've learned a lot from this experience and from my students. It has exposed me to different learning styles, different teaching styles, and has taught me lessons in patience that I never knew I needed. Buckle up for a busy semester, but keep an open mind and you'll be just fine.

 

Dear Preceptor-

Welcome to the ranks! You've clearly earned a respected and important reputation in your professor's mind. When I began this process, I thought that precepting would be an enjoyable and easy way to spend my time. It was definitely enjoyable, but I wouldn't call it easy by any stretch of the imagination. Precepting has been and continues to be a meaningful, challenging, and rewarding experience.

At the same time, though, I encourage you to make it what you want it to be. Take ownership of what you and your preceptees learn; be honest with your professor about what role you'd like to have. I found it useful to meet with my professor weekly to check in on how the students as well as I am doing with the material. He or she owes you an academic experience, too, and the only way you can get that is if you communicate what you'd like to get out of the opportunity.

Furthermore, make time for your students. Treat this class as of tantamount importance to all your others. If you do the work, make yourself available for office hours, and supplement/follow up to clarify points made in class, you'll find that you're learning a lot about not only the material, but what it means to effectively communicate ideas. This skill is so valuable to your future, and it is one that, as a student, we aren't as accustomed to exercising. By the end of the semester, if you make yourself available and commit to the class, you'll find great reward from what your preceptees are capable of and the critical thinking abilities they've gained (with your help!)

Last but not least, don't forget that you're introducing these kids to the F&M experience. Make it a great beginning for them, and a meaningful component for you. Congratulations!

Dear Newly-Minted Preceptors,
Congrats on being selected as a preceptor for the semester! Being asked to precept means that your professor thinks rather highly of you. This is a good thing. Feel free to be proud and boast obnoxiously to your friends/family/people on the street.
On the other hand, though, as if the aspect of being a mentor to an entire class of students you don’t know isn’t daunting enough, trying to live up to what you’ve assumed are your professor’s expectations can be a nerve-wracking task. In an effort to alleviate some of that anxiety, here are some tips:
1.) Talk to your professor. Just like you’re going to be their resource for getting a read on the class dynamics, they’re going to be your resource for figuring out how best to communicate material to your students. Meeting every week (with emails in between) is a great way to discuss the class and flesh out ideas and concerns you (or they!) might have.
2.) Make yourself a presence. The best way to eliminate any initial awkwardness is to integrate yourself into the classroom as soon as possible. If I could go back and do one thing differently, it would be to make sure I say something at least once in every class. By making your role known from the start, students are going to feel much more comfortable coming to you for advice.
3.) Don’t be a creep. On some level, this is self-explanatory, but you should also be mindful about your boundaries as a preceptor. You should certainly be a ‘presence’ and be active during class, but remember that you’re not a replacement for your professor. Some students will need your help, but others won’t—and that’s okay. You’re going to have students who are blatantly uninterested in and unmotivated towards the material, but after a while, it’s no longer your responsibility. Hounding them about their behavior and/or work will only alienate them even further.
4.) Prepare for class! No, you won’t be graded on the reading, but having a fresh reminder of the text will definitely help keep you engaged and comfortable in inserting yourself into class discussions. Likewise, be sure to take the time and learn your students’ names in the beginning of the semester. Handing back papers gets very old very quickly when you have no idea who ‘Amy’ is or where ‘John’ sits.
All that being said, there’s no need to be overly-cautious. Precepting is an exciting experience, and you’re going to learn a lot: how to act under pressure, how the learning process works (for you and for others), and how editing others’ papers can help your own in ways you’ve never even considered. Precepting is a great opportunity, so be sure to do all you can! You’ll be guiding students and, in turn, guiding yourself into unfamiliar but enriching territory. Good luck!

Dear Future Preceptor,

Congratulations on being chosen for this experience! You may be feeling nervous now, but just remember--you were on the other side of this a couple years ago, and have first hand experience from the student's point of view about what does and doesn't work in effective precepting. Think back to then, and perhaps consider what might have made your preceptee time even better, or what you would have found helpful. From there, you have a lot of freedom in shaping what your precepting experience is. It really is what you make it, but you will set yourself up for the most success by developing a close relationship with your professor where you feel comfortable going to them with both questions and ideas, and by making a point to stay on top of class readings and topics so that you are in the best place to aid students, should they come to you. And, on that note, if students don't come to see you in office hours or otherwise--don't worry! Each class has a different mix of students, with some asking for lots of help and others not needing much at all. If you find that you are precepting a class that doesn't ask for much help out of the classroom, try to make the most of your class time and reach out to students there. As the semester goes on, you'll find your rhythm! Be confident, be honest, and don't be afraid to go to your professor with suggestions you have for the flow of the class or a particular assignment! Best of luck!

Dear Future Preceptor,

Congratulations! Precepting is a really exciting opportunity that not everyone here gets, and I think you'll end up being really glad you decided to do it even if you're not sure what to think right now! If you're taking precepting as a fifth class, don't be too worried, it's definitely possible without too much stress!

Approach your students as equals. Yes, they are just entering college, and yes they will be frustrating and cop attitudes or just plain not get it sometimes. But they will also say some brilliant things, and succeed and improve, and trust me, you want to be part of that growing process.

In addition, keep in mind that they are coming from environments where many of them are used to there being a "right answer" and always looking to their teachers to have the final word on things. They will view you as a sort of mini-professor, so it's important to encourage them, along with your professor, to express their ideas even if those ideas are different from the ones you, your professor, of the other students in class hold. You'll find you can learn things from your freshman as well, even if you're very experienced in the subject of the class.

Remember, this is the beginning of your students' time to explore their education and what interests them at a great liberal arts college that offers them the opportunity to do so! Encourage them to work out their own ideas, to make mistakes, and to keep and open mind with all their classes. Teach them how to apply ideas from this class to their other ones, to their real lives, because that is what will stick with them and keep them engaged. That is how you'll teach them the value of everything they learn here, even if they take classes not necessarily related to their majors.

Just take some deep breaths and read the rest of these letters, because each of them contains great advice for you. You have a lot to contribute to these kids' first experiences at F&M and they have quite a bit to contribute to yours. Enjoy this opportunity, and good luck!

Dear Future Preceptor,

Welcome to the exclusive precepting club! This special support group will congratulate you on your highs and help you laugh about your lows every week. The job isn’t always easy, and it’s important to keep in mind that you’ll get significantly better with practice.

The beginning of the semester is always the most stressful time. You’re about to establish boundaries between you and your students, which may be difficult. Although it’s important to maintain a professional relationship with your kids, try to really get to know them. Students will feel more comfortable coming to you with questions if you make an effort to adjust your methods to their learning styles on a one-on-one basis.

Open communication with your professor is a game-changer. My professor and I meet every Sunday afternoon to chat about the upcoming discussion and parts of the class that might require tweaking. This is incredibly helpful for many reasons. Students can sense whether or not you and your professor are on the same page, and showing them that you’re a dream team will stimulate confidence. (It will also be incredibly helpful to get the readings before the semester begins.)

Individual revision meetings are my favorite part of precepting. Some tips: Meet in a quiet, public area. Bring the readings and prompt. Don’t allow students to submit too much electronically or schedule meetings the night before the paper is due. Focus on the most important corrections that should be made. Try not to sound too much like a know it all—we were all underclassmen once.

 

Dear Future Preceptor,

The impending semester is going to transport you from your position of mere student to one that straddles the line between student and professor. The classroom will become a new environment in which you exist in both an active and removed state. Your objective is no longer just to learn the material, but to work with the professor in learning and understanding the class’s dynamics. My main pieces of advice would be:
1.Be prepared! Your students will look to you for details and answers regarding assignments and material. You want to make sure you are able to give them the best answers and the correct information.
2. Communicate with your professor! Again, this makes sure you are both on the same page in terms of class operations and any situations or issues that may arise with students over the course of the semester.
3. Be an outside resource! Offer advice and suggestions on all aspects of F&M.
3. Have fun! While you hold a position of authority within the class, don’t let that stop you from getting to know your students and having fun in the class. Don’t be afraid to participate or make suggestions to the professor on how to improve the engagement of the class. Often times you, as a student, are able to offer a perspective that the professor is unable to see.

I wish you the best of luck in your precepting this semester! You are going to do great. Remember you were selected for a reason!