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This story is about a young man, who is getting ready to be an instructor of record for the first time (i.e. he will be in the driver’s seat, and not the co-pilot). Like other rookies, he used to believe that he was ready for the first professional race, and that his previous experiences as a semi-pro driver had been enough to prepare him. But, as in the case of many rookies, he was wrong. He would have probably gone out of the road pretty soon, if not for the mandatory driving certificate that the team leader wanted him to take. As a requisite to be certified, the young driver had to enroll in three preparatory courses. One, in particular, changed his mindset from the very beginning. He realized that although the semi-pro experience had been definitely helpful, getting in the seat of a Formula-1 car, a NASCAR vehicle, a Superbike, or in plain words: being in control of his own class, with all the details of it, was going to be a different story.
Did you like the analogy between being a driver and a teacher?
A driver has to be aware of his surroundings, as well as the condition of his car. That is how I see a teacher, someone who needs to be confident in front of the class, with the 5+ senses wide open, analyzing the environment, and be ready to adapt for the multiple unexpected situations that could occur. Even if the class content has been well prepared in advanced. I plan to find a strong team of collaborators and trust them, just as professional drivers trust their team. I don’t see my teaching as a one-man journey, although I will certainly have my own teaching voice. I plan to rely in both, “experienced” professors (team leaders) and my students (mechanics and apprentice drivers) to set up a well lubricated learning environment (the car). I am planning to be a risky driver when appropriate (i.e. try not-usual engineering teaching strategies), but also a defensive driver, observing the student’s engagement, progress and evaluating if the objectives are being met. I am aware that incorporating too many changes in the first race, could end in a disaster, reason for which I plan to discuss strategies with the team leaders (glad to have at least two mentors on board).
An important sentence was hanging in the middle of the previous paragraph: “have my own teaching voice”. I enjoyed reading Sarah E. Deel’s journey on this topic. I have gone through several of the questions she makes, and agree with several of her statements. I will admit that currently I already have a teaching style that I want to portray, the Socratic Method. It worked during the laboratory sessions I taught. I like to encourage people to find the answers by themselves, rather than me providing the answers. I like to answer with more questions when possible. I know I will have to be careful and don’t exaggerate, and thanks to Sarah’s article, I will make sure to explain to a certain degree the purpose of my teaching approach. If it ends up not working, then, with the help of the class, I hope to make the necessary twists to reach a beneficial environment.
Readers, here I do need your help, especially if you have taught before. I definitely want to connect with the students, and let them know that I care about their progress in the class. Some sort of boundaries will be definitely there, and I haven’t had a problem keeping those in the past. But besides all the questions about teaching strategies, being super serious or a comedian, the question that is puzzling me a little is: How should students address to me? Mr. Mantilla? Professor (even if I don’t have the official title)? How about Carlos? Other?
My current thought is Carlos, and let me share with you some reasons for it. First because they would probably mispronounce my last name, which actually is Mantilla Peña. Jokes aside (maybe not so much), I don’t feel like Mr. Mantilla, it just sounds too serious to me. If you know me, you might think that it could actually fit my personality, since I appear to be serious all the time, and although that might be true (apparently), I just don’t like Mr. Mantilla, not yet anyways. The second alternative: Professor. Not that I really care to be honest, but not sure if faculty members would dislike the idea of students calling me professor. And Carlos, it just fits me, that is how I have been always called (except family and friends nicknames of course). And I don’t see a reason why it will be a problem, although some have suggested that it might lead to boundaries not being clear.
So I spend two paragraphs in a question that might sound silly, but perhaps it could be the difference between a left foot semester (not so good) and a right foot one (great). Besides that, as I tried to share before. I want to be “fair”, “approachable”, “respected” and a good driver during my rookie season. I want my team of mechanics and apprentice drivers to succeed, to reach the objectives set for the course and to collaborate between them, I want a team victory.
Let’s keep learning. Let’s keep educating. Let’s keep moving forward. Let’s keep asking WHY. Let’s continue to be more mindful. Let’s forget about A, B, C, D, E and F (the grades, not the letters). Let’s focus on making sure to help each other out, create a good pipeline for students to be successful, a well lubricated learning environment. Let’s be great drivers and go for a team victory.
Carlos F. Mantilla P.