Discovering My Authentic Teaching Self

I did not know how to feel when I found out that I would be a graduate teaching assistant teaching a public speaking class comprising of approximately 80 students. I had never imagined that I would teach in any setting. However I come from a family of teachers, so maybe it was something that I would have tried out eventually.

I do not usually consider myself someone who gets overwhelmed, but the week leading up to the first day of classes I was close. We had a weeklong orientation the week prior to get ready for teaching, and while I did not doubt that it would prepare me, it was still an immense amount of information to take in. While other TAs gave advice on the best way to approach teaching, ultimately I knew that I would not really find the answer until I went into the classroom myself.

I have always liked teachers who were passionate about what they were teaching and approachable, yet serious enough to command control of the classroom. I decided that I would take what I could from them, in the end I would have to forge my own identity. I decided to be myself as best I could, corny jokes included.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not just totally act like myself unfiltered in the classroom. There is still a level of professionalism I try to bring to my students. But after I took a deep breath that first day, I was more at ease with trying to do my job. Also, I think students are more understanding than we give them credit for. Most understand when you try to do your best, and displaying the passion you have for your class is a plus.

I have no plans to enter teaching after I finish my masters, but there are many skills that we all gain from working in this profession. In particular, working with others and watching our students grow and develop in their skills. Ultimately however, we find out about ourselves in the way we teach skills to others. I hope to have gotten better at that by the end of this year.



5 Replies to “Discovering My Authentic Teaching Self”

  1. Billy,

    I have definitely experienced the same overwhelming feeling you have. It’s not easy to get up in front of that many people, especially when you’re expected to teach them material. But, as Homero said in class last week, I think a little bit of nervousness is good; it keeps you vigilant and shows that you care. It sounds like you’re already on the right track and doing a great job balancing passion, approachability, and authority. I’m sure you’ll continue to find your authentic teaching self as the semester moves forward (and who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself wanting to teach again after your degree?).

    Best of luck!

  2. Billy,
    We definitely had similar feelings the week before we started teaching. There was so much being said about your teaching persona, that I had no idea how to actually enter the classroom. Who was I going to be? I had no idea. I know that my personality can be abrasive at times, and I definitely didn’t want to come off like that. I think I landed somewhere close to where you did–as soon as I took a deep breath and the first day, I knew who I was going to be in the classroom. Using humor to my advantage, I took control of the room with a few trash jokes along the way. While I know you don’t have plans to go into teaching after this program, I know that your personality will carry you far and allow you to do amazing things.

  3. Billy,
    We are in the same boat. You remind me when I taught math and being a teacher at the first time. Event though, my situation is different than yours, since I have taught middle school students. I remember I haven’t slept well the night before starting my job. I was thinking about how I can be a good teacher, how I can teach these students, how I can manage the classroom, how I can engage uninterested students, etc. Since I know most students find math boring and difficult to learn. I have spent three years teaching math. By experience I have learned to be patient because I love teaching AND I devoted myself to become a teacher. However, I think you will change your mind after learning more about teaching and maybe you come back to teach after your degree.

    Good Luck,

  4. Hi Billy,

    That overwhelming feeling is never pleasant but it can push us to accomplish new, exciting things! I love your point that while teaching isn’t a profession that you want to get into, that the skills you learn can transfer to nearly any job role.

    I was lucky to be eased into a teaching role, but what you learn about yourself and about teaching this semester will help you wherever you go in the future. Trial by fire is intimidating but you’ll pull through!

  5. Hi Billy, great thoughts here. It’s definitely true that students are more accommodating than we anticipate. Us instructors have had to make many accommodations due to the pandemic and it’s easy to forget students have as well, so everyone is likely more sympathetic. Although you don’t plan to enter teaching as your profession, the skillset you gain from this role translates incredibly well to any job (especially since you’re assisting in a public speaking course).

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