On the Way of Finding My Teaching Voice

In “Finding My Teaching Voice“, Sarah Deel narrates her journey of developing her teaching style from mimicking other good professor to being herself as a teacher. She faced many questions that I also have when I am finding my own teaching style.

I have being a teaching assistant for more than 6 years and a guest lecturer for several times. My advisor and the professors I worked with think I am ready to teach a class by myself. Thus, I was offered an opportunity to be an instructor for a summer course. I used similar teaching methods like my advisor who teaches this course in spring semester for a long time. Deel gives a slightly negative attitude to using some of your previous professor’s techniques in the classroom, as if it is opposed to finding your own teaching voice. But I think it will help you develop your own teaching voice when you take advantage of  some truly exceptional techniques. I tried to attract students’ attentions with videos, discussions, and various related examples during my lecture sessions (50 min) but I didn’t do well. Many students would do other things after 20-30 min of some lectures. Students thought the lectures were not interesting. That’s my fault. I am very bad at using humor in the classroom. I always use a lot of examples to make concepts/methods interesting to me, but it doesn’t work for students. I can understand many jokes from professors but it is really hard to me to incorporate proper humor in the classroom. I don’t know how to change the situation. How to incorporate humor in the classroom? Is it necessary to be a good teacher?

6 thoughts on “On the Way of Finding My Teaching Voice”

  1. Thanks for sharing.

    To answer your question, no! I don’t think you need the use of humor to be a good professor. Actually, I think humor is a very complex thing to use in the classroom because we might have students from different cultures that can be sensitive to humor.

    I think you are in the right path to finding your teaching voice. Your post demonstrate that you care about your students and about becoming a good professor, and I really believe that is very important to succeed in the process.

    One recommendation for your class is to find ways to break it down using different active learning strategies. There is a lot of research regarding attention span and some authors affirm that is as short as 5 minutes.

    In my case I try to not speak for more than that. I use different strategies to make my students change pace and move around. For example I start by explaining a concept or a topic, and always try to provide real world examples, then I’ll ask them to think in teams about what other examples from their experiences they think relate to the topic. Then I’ll talk for other 5 to 10 minutes and do a think pair share exercise for example.

    I ask a good question (that will make them think about the topic) ask them to then pair with another person they haven’t worked yet, and share their opinion. Then I show a video, or try to do another group activity. If I see the classroom is getting too distracted or not engaged I always try to have an activity (related to the topic) that involve standing up and moving. One thing to consider is that you will need to plan more than you can achieve, because it’s not easy to plan for the timing.

    Hope this helps,

    Homero

    1. Thank you for your answer and suggestions. I also try to use different active learning strategies to keep students engaged, but I didn’t do well to interact with students. I used similar strategy of using examples and asking students to share the examples they know. But I didn’t get active feedback. Most of them keep silence. I am nervous and embarrassing in that situation. I need to find a way to solve the problem.
      I like the idea of movement and did some in the class. And I may do more and think more in the future.

  2. Thank you for sharing! I also agree that humor is not always necessary in the classroom. In fact, if it is forced or “fake” it can actually come off very negatively. I also agree with your choice of starting off using techniques you have learned from advisor and other professors. I see where you might get some negativity from Sarah Deel’s piece regarding this point, but I actually think hers and the piece by Shelli Fowler are supportive of such techniques. They simply suggest that others’ techniques might not always work for you (such as humor) and that though you can often use what you have seen others do as a starting point, it will be beneficial for both you and your students to incorporate some of your own style and technique.

  3. I accepted a long time ago that I am not funny (at least, not intentionally). If humor was a prerequisite for teaching, then I would need to find a new career! Like others have said, though, you can definitely engage your students and be relatable without humor. I think a big part of it is showing your passion, not just for the subject material, but for the students’ learning. If you can show them that you care whether they learn or not, they’ll be more likely to care, too.

  4. I am many things, but funny is not one of them. Without wanting to sound like I am jumping on the bandwagon, I also support everyone’s comments about finding other ways to engage the students and material. The degree of difficulty in coming up with active learning strategies, I think depends a bit on the subject matter and your audience. If you teaching to a beginning (100 or 200 level) audience, I would look for ways to apply the concepts to the world around them. Where could they experience the theories or ideas that you are trying to teach them about. I think this goes back to our earlier discussions about using imagination and play to encourage students to explore the ideas themselves and then bring it back to a discussion of what they experienced. Then you can work with them to construct the ideas and concepts based on that experience.

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