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.