My teaching self

What is my teaching voice?

Well, to be honest, I have no idea! I have never taught, I’ve never even been a TA. I’ve thought a lot about the characteristics and approaches I want to emanate in my teaching, and I have some tenuous ideas, but I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the feeling that I don’t have the slightest clue what I’m doing. I’m introverted and I’m not overly comfortable speaking in front of groups. It’s hard to align these characteristics with my ideas of an effective teacher.

Which is why I found Sarah Deel’s piece more than a little reassuring. Maybe I just need to figure out who I am and then just be that person… sounds reasonable, right? I really like how intentional Deel is about incorporating aspects of her personality into making sure she is an effective teacher. Her discussion of her own experience as a student helped me to understand that I think part of what I am struggling with is the fact that I’ve never had many instructors who are like myself. To start with the most obvious difference between myself and my instructors, as an undergraduate, I only had a single engineering course taught by a woman. Most of my professors were confident and loud, and frankly, far too often didn’t seem to care much about teaching. Maybe it’s starting to sound like a good thing that I can’t relate to these qualities. Hopefully I haven’t overgeneralized too much here. I had a few awesome teachers, but unfortunately more often than not, these negative characteristics seemed to be the rule rather than the exception.

As Deel suggests, there are many ways to be a good teacher and overlooked characteristics may actually be key aspects to learning to teach in our own voice.

3 Comments

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3 Responses to My teaching self

  1. Homero

    Thanks for sharing.

    Finding your teaching voice is a process that takes time but is really rewarding. Even when you don’t have any experience in front of the classroom, remember that like you said you have been a student for some time. That can give you an initial idea of what to do or better yet what not to do. Like someone else mentioned already here: http://blogs.lt.vt.edu/kspooner/2015/09/28/the-authentic-teaching-self-where-do-i-start/

    You can start by understanding what you don’t want to be as a teacher.

    Cheers,

    Homero

  2. I completely understand the sense that you have a different temperament and gender than many of your teaching models! We are so conditioned to think about “good teaching” in terms of the effectiveness of an individual’s lecturing ability, or their charisma or grativas….and in almost every instance, the norm for those ideals is a masculine one! I struggled with this for a long time without realizing that’s what I was doing. I never enjoyed lecturing very much, but I worked hard to become an engaging speaker and to model and master the kind of authority and expertise I had admired as a student. Fortunately, the spaces for collaborative pedagogies have really opened up in the last several years. Teaching in a networked, online space, and facilitating active co-learning with my students has helped me be a more authentic and better teacher. When you broaden the model of excellent teaching to include more than the “sage on the stage” all kinds of good can happen.

  3. Krystalyn Morton

    I went straight into teaching as a GTA my first semester of graduate school after having graduated with my Bachelor’s roughly three months prior. When I got the position, I wondered how I could make the jump a successful one having just been on the other side (a student) with little lag time in between. After a small melt down during the summer before grad school, my mom gave me a piece of advice that sticks with me to this day. She said to think of my favorite professors and what I liked most about them, then try to incorporate those things into your own teaching style. I realized that the things I liked most about my professors did not necessarily have anything to do with teaching/lecturing per se, but more so how they made me feel as a student. At such a large university, students can often feel like just a number so I always strive to make each of my students feel that they are important, the opinions are valued, and their ideas as unique as they are. This is what I consider defines my teaching self!

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