Do Boy Scouts Make the Best Instructors?

Maybe so, because we know they will always be prepared.

( Note: If you use equipment of any kind when you teach, pay close attention to Item 6. )

The Boy Scout motto, everyone knows it. “Be Prepared.” There is no better advice of a college instructor. I want to couple this with the old Head & Shoulders tag line from half a century ago. “You only get one chance to make a first impression.”

Sure, this all sounds obvious. Why read any further? Well, every year I hire new adjuncts who certainly know the value of being prepared. Yet every year I see one or two of them get off on the wrong foot with their students because they weren’t prepared. Here are six of the ways you need to be prepared:

  1. Give yourself extra commuting time, “commuting contingency” you might call it. Be prepared to deal with accidents (not yours I hope), railroad crossings, slippery roads, the need to stop for gas, and whatever else could slow your travel so that in virtually every case you will arrive at class in plenty of time.
  2. Have you syllabus ready for the first class. Your students should know what is expected of them right from the start.
  3. Have classroom activities ready for the first class. Don’t simply review your syllabus, give an assignment and dismiss class. What kind of first impression do you think that leaves with students?
  4. Create a lesson plan for each class to help you stay on schedule. I was a bit anal about this. Often I would create a spreadsheet in which I would break down my class period into 5-minute increments.
  5. Be prepared to shift gears. Have extra material and/or class activities ready in case you need them.
  6. Before class, try out any equipment you will be using. Whether it is a computer and projector for delivering a PowerPoint presentation, or the lab setup for a chemistry experiment, be prepared. You could be teaching them to balance a wheel, develop a picture, use a surveying transit, take blood pressure, or run a sophisticated piece of laboratory equipment. It doesn’t matter what you are teaching them to use. Fumble around, and they will assume you don’t know what you are doing.

Bottom Line:


  • Be prepared for class; or be prepared for angry, critical, complaining students.



  • Be sure your first class goes off like clockwork. It is important that you leave a good first impression with your students, because first impressions are difficult to change.


© 2010 Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

Posted February 27, 2010

About Dr. Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

My name is Paul Hummel, and I often introduce myself to others as a recovering engineer. If you are familiar with the Dilbert cartoons, let me simply say that I lived all of that. I started my college saga at Illinois Institute of Technology. Eventually, I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management. I worked for many years in industry, and during this time I did some college adjunct teaching. During my career I held several managerial positions in industry, the last as Director of Technology of a division of a Fortune 500 corporation. Then, in 1996, with minimal planning or forethought, I found myself working as a manufacturing consultant on behalf of Elgin Community College (ECC). My career in higher education began to take shape. I fell in love with ECC and with the mission of community colleges in general. I worked fulltime and occasionally taught college courses for my institution and two other colleges. After a couple years I set a goal to move over to the “credit side of the college” and eventually become a college administrator. In 2006, having earned my doctorate in education, I achieved that goal. I was hired by Waubonsee Community College as Dean for Technology, Mathematics and Physical Sciences. I have had the great fortune of working at two excellent colleges. The insights I want to share are drawn from the various college positions I have held. At ECC, in addition to my consulting role, I coordinated non-credit professional development training programs for three years and spent four years advising students in the TRiO Student Support Services program. That position helped me understand college education from the perspective of today’s college students. After seven years at Waubonsee, I retired April 30, 2013. I now devote my knowledge and skills to upgrading and expanding the websites I created beginning with Adjunct Assistance. I have three other websites: College Teaching Tips, Keys for College Success and Lighthouse for Learning. A lot of work lies ahead for me in terms of upgrading and expanding each of these websites, but I could not be more excited about fulfilling the vision I have for helping college instructors and their students succeed.

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