So in thinking about this week’s post, I wasn’t exactly sure what to write about. I asked myself, “How do I know what my authentic teaching self is because I am just starting my career as a counselor educator.” But after going through the assigned readings for the week, I felt myself associating with a lot of the faculty experiences and suggestions. I had to remind myself that my teaching experience began over 15 years ago. I started helping my karate instructors lead classes when I was only about 12 or 13. A few years later, I was one of the senior instructors at that karate studio. Teaching karate classes was such a special experience to me that was engaging both mentally and physically. But since that time, my teaching experiences have varied drastically!
The next stage of my teaching came years later when I worked as a math tutor at the community college I was attending. That was quite the learning experience also as I had to hone not only my math skills but how to help people individually instead of in groups. The physical nature of my karate instruction was no longer necessary when teaching a student algebra. Eventually, several years of tutoring experience provided my supervisors with enough confidence in me that I could teach developmental algebra classes. It took some adjustments to my teaching style, but it was the same material I had been tutoring people on for a few years.
The biggest challenge to my authentic teaching self came last semester when I co-taught my first counseling class. Up until that point, I thought I was pretty comfortable in the teaching role, but that role completely shifted with a counseling class. Not only was I not the only teacher at the front of the room (a first for me), but I was no longer meant to be in an expert role. Teaching math, I was the one with knowledge to impart on the student and algebra usually involves very specific right and wrong answers. Teaching counseling classes, we encourage the master’s students to not think about counseling as right or wrong because there are so many ways to counsel that are just “different.” Teaching math, my own personal experiences weren’t relevant to the topic, but in counseling, sharing my own personal and professional experiences was encouraged. Another random aspect that I never much thought about was where to put my hands while teaching now. I always had a marker in my hand before and used the board regularly. Now where do I put my hands?!
First image to appear when I googled “sage on stage:”
So after all these changes, I was shocked that my “authentic teaching self” for math and karate classes actually made finding my “authentic teaching self” for counseling classes more difficult. For karate classes, I was clearly the higher rank over my students, and respect for those of higher rank was extremely important. Teaching math, I was the one at the front of the room who had the knowledge the students needed. Now all of the sudden, I’m NOT supposed to be the one “sage on stage!” We want to treat master’s counseling students as colleagues and give them the autonomy to develop their own unique professional identity. And now suddenly issues of privilege in the classroom were on the forefront instead of being an afterthought as before. All of these changes in my environment made for a much more difficult transition than I expected, and my views on pedagogy have forever been expanded.
Picture from VT counselor education webpage (different type of learning):
Fortunately, there have been some consistencies in my teaching that were touched on in the readings this week. I’ve found that in each of these situations, good communication skills has been the cornerstone of teaching. I’ve also valued being genuine, even though different parts of myself tend to emerge in each setting. I acknowledge wholeheartedly that people taking algebra classes probably only do it because it is required, while counseling students usually feel a call to the profession as I did. There is no need to pretend about either of those realities. But the overarching theme that I am taking away from my experiences and this week’s readings is that my “authentic teaching self” is always evolving and must be adapted to the teaching situation. As hard as these transitions have been, I hope that it has provided me with greater awareness when approaching a class and the abilities to reach out to students’ individual needs.