Teaching is not an easy task to master. I think that many people outside of teaching believe that teaching is easy and that anyone can do it. This may be true, but not just anyone can teach well. There are many things going through a teacher’s mind while they are teaching. Did I make my slide correctly? Are my student’s understanding what I am trying to teach them? Did I mention what homework is due? Is there learning happening in my class room?
Before class last week and before this week’s readings, I am not sure that inclusion was at the forefront of my thoughts. However, after our class discussion and the readings, I feel that a ‘seed’ has been planted in my head. Possibly, that is all I need, a seed that can grow and blossom. I would like to think that I, as a teacher, have been throughout my career, inclusive to all students. I am sure that there are students that would agree with me and probably some that would not agree. We all have certain biases ingrained in ourselves that have been grown there through our experiences. These readings have allowed me to acknowledge the fact that these biases exist and that there are things I can do, as a teacher, to not let them affect my teaching.
I want learning to be the number one priority of my students when they are sitting in my class. I realize, through the readings, that in order for that to be the case, I need to foster a safe environment for all of my students, not just some. This is easier said than done. Like I said before we have all been brought up and raised with certain biases and these biases produce ways of doing things that may not always be inclusive. This week’s readings have made me think a lot about micro-aggressions I may be exhibiting while teaching and about some of the examples I may be sharing while teaching. And I think that ‘seed’ that I referenced earlier can blossom into more clear thought as to how to include all students and create a space of safe learning for anyone who takes my class.
Like I said, although it may be easy to be a teacher, it is definitely not easy to be a good teacher. But classes like this one that give you a glimpse of other things to think about can only help in growing my acknowledgement and knowledge of ways to create safe environments for learning, which should be the goal of any teacher.
This is my start of my second year teaching Public Speaking at the School of Communications at Virginia Tech. I have learned many things in the first year both about teaching and about myself. I have realized that there are many important parts to being an effective teacher. For instance, preparation, approachability, and overall, even detailed, understanding and knowledge of the subject matter are all things that go into creating a successful teacher and therefore, creating successful learners. I have come to understand that a teacher, well at least me as a teacher, needs to find a balance between these factors and other teaching attributes like fairness, accountability, and even fun. Although it is not easy to balance these factors, experience and common sense play a big role an allowing me, as a teacher to find a way to come up with a ‘formula’ that works for me as an individual. Over the last year, teaching with my colleagues, I have realized that there is no ‘cookie cutter’ format that denotes a good teacher.
After reading Sarah Deel’s musings on her struggles and accomplishments in her own graduate school teaching years, it dawned on me that teaching is not easy for anybody. I feel, like Deel, that a person’s teaching style must reflect that person’s individual qualities and can not be put into a ‘How to be a good teacher” box. Deel explains her struggles with finding her voice as a teacher when all she had to look up to was past teachers and professors that she had experienced as a student. The struggle of trying to emulate someone else’s teaching style was not working for her and will not work for a lot of new teachers. I struggled my first year in finding my voice but learned that being myself and controlling what I can control took away most of my anxiety when teaching. I stopped worrying about the little stuff and looked at the big picture.
I believe the big picture is that the students learn. I don’t know if all teachers agree with this as a teaching philosophy but I, as a second year graduate student believe this to be the case. As we learned in Contemporary Pedagogy class, ‘learning’ has different meanings to different people but I believe that if a student can gain information for a teacher that will help that student in both his/her future schooling and future career, then a teacher did something right.
What I believe my teaching style boils down to, is a style that promotes learning where students feel safe and comfortable to be able to both learn and come to me with questions or concerns they are experiences in the class. I also believe that my teaching style is and always will be changing and hope that it changes for the better. I know that there will always be new experiences for me in my teaching career. I will learn innovative ways to present knowledge, novel ideas on how to connect with students, and new technologies for displaying materials but I feel that if I am open to changing and acknowledge that there is always room for improvement I will be a better teacher for it. Oh yeah, and always, always be myself.