The first time I taught here at Virginia Tech, I was in charge of two lectures for a large class of 300 students. Back then, I had little teaching experience, and I decided to use the course instructor’s teaching style to deliver the material. I tried to follow his unstructured, figure-less and serious way of delivering the material. I think this style might work for a professor with years of experience, but not for a relatively novice instructor. Even though the experience wasn’t that bad, I think I did not perform at my best. The next year, I was in charge of teaching half of the course, and from the first day I decided that I was going to do things my way. I believe that was my first try at finding my authentic teaching self.
Now I know a bit more of how to be my own self to succeed in the classroom. I have a serious side, where I prioritize organization and structure. The carefully designed course and lessons with detailed sequence, make me comfortable and confident when leading a lecture. I’ve actually received positive feedback form my students about the organization of my classes. In the other hand, my “goofy” personality and out-of-the-box way of thinking leads me to use funny examples, personal experiences and interesting questions/facts as examples to decorate my lessons. For example, I sometimes use smiley faces in questions and assessments. I have not received feedback about this part of my teaching, but I believe it helps me feel relaxed and make myself look accessible and relatable.
What is the next step? Every time I’m teaching I’m learning more about myself, my teaching self and what I want to do. For the last couple of years, I have taught the same class: a large undergrad class that covers biochemistry concepts for non-biochemistry majors. I want to have more diverse teaching opportunities to learn about myself and improve my teaching abilities. A smaller class of advanced students, an introductory class for freshmen, an applied concepts course closer to industry’s needs, these are all examples of course environments where I want to find more information about my teaching self. I still have a lot to learn about myself and about teaching, but I know that my ultimate goal is to be a successful instructor and make a difference in my student’s life.