postheadericon Seeking a voice for the end of the world.

Catchy title, right?

Before I started teaching classes, instructor-of-record here at VT, I had never thought about teaching. Never gave it serious consideration, never gave thought to a teaching philosophy, making connections with students, creating an environment conducive to learning. As I stumbled through my first semester, I figured it might just be a good idea to do so. One of the reasons I wanted to take a pedagogy course was to do just that.

Over the last year and, well, however long into this year we are, I find myself making, or attempting to make, more productive connections with my students than when I began. When students began meeting with me during office hours, hanging after class to ask questions on the material or an assignment, I found those interactions improved those students’ understanding of the material and their perceptions of the class itself. During those interactions I allowed my personality to come through, allowed for humor, was able to build on their understanding of a concept or assignment by responding, creating a dialogue, offered suggestions based on those students’ individual interests. This was something I had been trying to foster in the classroom – to decrease the number of blank stares during class and replace them with attentive, involved students.

Seeing how students reacted to that sort of thing, I began peppering in-class lectures and activities wit similar interactions. I began revealing elements of my personality to the class, integrated humor, sarcasm, had a little fun with the material, fun with the students – at least, the ones that actually involve themselves in class. That helped alleviate some of the tension in the room – since then my experience (and hopefully theirs) has significantly improved.

I began thinking of teachers I’ve had throughout my education – in public school, the ones I remember and remember positively were those I connected with on an individual level, ones I interacted with on that individual level – even if those interactions weren’t pleasant.

I don’t know everything about the subject I am teaching. When I began teaching, it was important to me to exude competence, to be perceived by my students as someone that knows a thing or two, someone they fell they can learn from.

Swing!

Miss…

The further in I went, however, the more I realized that did not matter. I did not have to be the expert. Infallible. It was very much as much a learning experience for me as it was them, and that was an illuminating realization.

Discovering what went wrong, discovering what, exactly, I don’t like, don’t want to do, isn’t exactly finding an authentic voice through which to teach. But it is a starting point.

Have I found a teaching voice?

Nah.

But I am certainly invested in looking.

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