My personal teaching evolution

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:”

Image result for 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):

VT Students

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.


5 thoughts on “My personal teaching evolution”

  1. Methodologies don’t work without methods. An approach to teaching can follow a certain methodology, but methods need to map on individual needs. I wonder how do you approach a class to reach out to “student’s individual needs?” In numbers, how big is that class?

  2. I really like that you gave us a narrative, and a history, for your current perception of what it means for you to have an “authentic teaching self”. It’s always fascinating to hear from folks who have been in leadership positions outside of academia, and worked in different models of community development for example, about how the skills they bring from those other areas complement, conflict, and sometimes are remade by the necessities of their current positions.

    Just for the sake of inquiry: what do you think would happen if we rewrote the books on how karate or math were instructed to mesh with more “guide on the side” style philosophies?

    1. That’s a great question! I think it could actually work pretty well for karate instruction. I typically moved to the side much more as students moved up in rank. Students would need a bit of guidance at the start to get the basics down, but there came a point where it was best to let them just develop their own style. It was great to see how I taught so many people the same basic principles but then when they had that freedom to try things their own way, each was able to come up with a unique way of practicing.

      In terms of math, I tried early on to do a semi-flipped classroom in which the students read the material and came to class with questions. I don’t know if I was just new to teaching or if the material was just too difficult, but I couldn’t get any of the students to follow through with that. It would be nice if they could read through the book’s examples first to get an idea of what the concepts were and then I could just be there to fill in the gaps. I pretty much always had to be hands on teaching though at that time. It’s a nice thought though!

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. Wow! You certainly have a wide range of teaching experiences. I think your history addresses a very important aspect of discovering your authentic teaching self: you are constantly evolving as a person as well as an educator. Your experiences were all very different. Though this may have made you uncomfortable when transitioning into each, look at where you are now! You’ve evolved into a more versatile educator capable of teaching students through a variety of methodologies. I thinks it’s a real asset that you have the ability to borrow from your experiences to better adapt to the needs of your students. You’re basically a teaching chameleon!

  4. Very interesting post.
    I had many tutorial experiences in my study life but never been an independent teacher in front of the whole class. I often give my classmates review session or tutorial instruction as I’m always one of the top students, and I feel confident and self-fulfilled. I guess it is this feeling that inspires my thought of becoming a real teacher in front of class and showing that whether can I really be a competent teacher. I think that, though not professional, my past experiences can to some extent help me to build up my own authentic teaching voice.

Leave a Reply