What is your Signature?

I studied at a teaching-oriented high school. At that time, when I was in my last two years, I had to teach at elementary schools. This opportunity helped me to start developing my teaching skills, especially those related to creativity because it is really hard to have the attention of children around 6 – 10 years old. I ended up doing a lot of games as a way of teaching them. I realized that they really enjoyed that time because the class was something different to their daily routine.

Since that time, I always ask myself,

How do I want students to remember me? What is the impact that I want to have on them? How would you answer these questions?

I envision myself as a professor out of the box. During my years at school and university (my whole life), I have realized what I like and what I do not like when I am taking a class. This really helps me to envision the professor that I want to be.

First, I want to be a very creative/innovative professor. As mention by Prof. Shelli Fowler “The average attention span of people age 18-35 is close to 15 minutes”. That’s why I really care about spending a lot of time finding new techniques or ways to engage students in the class and to explain the topics. I do not want they feel boring in the class.

I am always looking for caught the attention of the students, even when I have to do a presentation, I always want to catch the attention of the attendees. For example, last semester I was a speaker at a conference where I was the only Ph.D. student. All the attendees were experts in the industry with more than 25 years of experience (most of them men). I was terrified and very intimidated by them because that was my first conference presentation since I came to VT. Plus, I had to talk for 1 hr and 15 minutes in a language that is not my naïve language. At that moment, I asked myself, where are the “normal” 20 minutes time for a conference?

I can tell you that I spent a lot of time working on my presentation. Maybe, this is something that most of students or professors usually do not do. I have been in classes where the professor has slides with text everywhere that I do not even have time to read it. If I try to do it, I will miss what the professor is saying (I can not do two things at the same time in English). They rather think if these are the better ways to communicate the concepts and examples. Just to give you an idea, the following picture was the first slide of my presentation (I am working with a concept called “phantom float”). That was a complete success, I had not even started and everyone was saying what an interesting way to start a presentation. Everyone was engaged from the beginning.

Second, I want to motivate and inspire students to be their own best selves. I truly believe that when you share your own experiences, you definitely have an impact on people’s lives. I want to be approachable. I want students to feel comfortable in the class so they really desire to go to the class instead of just going because they have to. I want to they enjoy the learning process! I am not the kind of person that can tell jokes in a classroom because I do not even understand the jokes in English but I can definitely find other ways to make the environment more enjoyable. For example, my advisor uses to play music before the class starts. Students can also select the music that they want to hear.

As well as our signature is unique, our teaching style and approach are too. So,

What is your signature?


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3 Responses to What is your Signature?

  1. MiguelAndres says:

    Hi Diana, I enjoyed your post as well. I am curious to know the end of the story! While reading your post, I remember one story that happened to me right before coming to Vt. A student failed to pass a core class in Civil eng. major, and took a last option of a make up final exam (like I said before, they could take as many make ups as they wanted to until the last day of class). It turned out that he failed it again. He was a 40 years old Architect, in charge of his family company, who decided to go back to school to get the engineering degree to have a more complete education. I am saying this because he brought all of this up and requested a lot to let him pass the class; to the point to the point to get into an ugly situation. I was leaving a few weeks after to VT, I had nothing to lose nor future students will have tried this to pass because I wouldn’t be teaching there. At the end, I decided to stick to the syllabus and he failed the class, I think hat was the correct thing to do. Sadly, last winter break, while I visited the university I ran into him, and he gave me this dirty look and passed by. This of course made me sad, and made me questioning my previous decision. Now, more than ever, I agree with with using this statement for my teaching philosophy: How do I want students to remember me? What is the impact that I want to have on them?

  2. sofrgp says:

    Diana I loved your post. Congrats for the presentation, you did not mentioned how it ends, but I and sure that it was a completely successful.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences and techniques. I would definitively try to apply them. My favorite one, is to try to engage the audience with a very creative slide.
    My answer to your last question is “participation”. I hate classes where just the professor talks. So, I always try to create questions for the students, in that way they can think about the topic and share with the group.

  3. Jyotsana says:

    Thank you for your well thought out post Diana. I agree with both aspects you cover with what kind of teacher you’d like to be. I think I am similar in that sense :D

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