Finding the Balance

“How do I create a professional relationship with my students? Can I maintain authority and treat students fairly while striving for them to like me? Where should the boundaries be? If I become my students’ buddy, how can I assess them properly (i.e., give them low grades when appropriate) without compromising our relationship?” – these are all questions  that have came across my mind as I have yet and anxious to teach a college course yet. These questions zero in on my mind, especially when I kind of do want to be the “popular professor”. During my tenure as a substitute teacher I was the “cool sub”, when I would walk into the schools that were familiar with me, especially the high schools, the students would bum bar me with questions like “what class are you subbing for?” “Can you sub for my class soon?”, “When are you going to be here again?” As I enjoyed seeing their happy faces and listening to the different confidential adventures they’d go on the weekend prior I was afraid I was becoming a friend instead of a professional instructor. It felt as though I had little authority, the times I did get frustrated some of the “gate keeper” students would see my frustration and yell to their peers “Be quiet! I like this sub and I am not trying to get in trouble!” But I felt like that should have still been my job to find the balance of being the professional authority figure and the “cool sub” and the same time.

Finding out who I am as a teacher and finding my teaching voice is something that I can honestly say I am anxious more than anything about teaching. I want to be able to find that balance being that confidant,, stimulating my students’ knowledge, and having that authoritative respect from my students all at the same time. Is it a process and something that comes with time?

The “Authentic teaching self” really helped me to think and answer some of the above questions. The idea that “teaching is not always about you”, for some reason that resonated with me I was thinking about me and my position in the classroom more than my future students. The handout  suggested to “step outside of yourself” so that you can be attentive to the students and not make the classroom your stage with the students as a passive audience.  This suggestion helped my anxieties calm down a little. Finding the balance is important but recognizing that teaching is about the students is even more important. This was just my Aha! moment.

Learning From Mistakes

During class discussion last night the conversation (from someone’s question) lead to providing feedback from test to students to give them an option to get a better grade and/or learn from their mistakes made during the test. I only had this experience in a classroom once and that was in middle school probably. At the time it felt like an inconvenience but as the year went on I noticed I was retaining more information and even doing better on my test as the the year progressed.

As the discussion went on I thought about how I would be an efficient instructor. To assess students it seems that there are many ways but testing being one. To take a test and get a grade is one thing but to take a test and get feedback and get a chance to learn from the feedback and improve the grade is a new story. As I think about how I will adopt a pedagogy to not only benefit my future students but my self as well this will be something that I will give my students an option to learn from their “mistakes” made on a test and talk through why either answers were incorrect.

The document by Jean Lacoste, “Teaching Innovation Statement” addresses tailoring courses to individual needs as I began the reading I thought “Yeah right that probably won’t work and will not have a big impact as much as she think it might”. but as I continued reading she stated that, ” [she] was concerned that [she] might be giving my freshmen too much freedom; worried they wouldn’t make the best choices. [Her] findings are the exact opposite. Rather than selecting one mode over the other, many students completed tasks from multiple modes; attending the live lecture AND reviewing the video lecture, completing the live activity AND working through the online activity”. Before this she stated that she ‘redesigned the course she was teaching to to offer many options and allowed each student to choose their own path”. (This also reminded me of the Imagination readings we had last week). she also mentions that she deigned the course to incorporate hands on activities, videos and other different stimulants that massaged the process of learning. She provided individualized feedback tailored to the work they submitted she also had suggested deadlines but deadlines were flexible for their own study pace. Each option was to support a specific learning style. This makes sense because people learn with more than one sense or stimulant and in different ways. This must have took alot of work and effort on her part as well.

Before going through this weeks readings and class discussion I was thinking that I wanted to be an instructor that can be able to provide a learning environment that tailors to every students’ needs then I thought might that even be possible? Am I setting impossible goals for myself? Now after reading this I feel a bit more comfortable with my soon pedagogy and I am inspired. Learning and teaching can be a beneficial learning experience for both the students and instructor. I want my students to know that I will be with them throughout this process going step by step as they are.

Imagination: “Authors of Our Own Stories or Stuckness?”

I really appreciated the reading for this week, Eric Liu and Scott Noppe-Brandon really spoke to us social scientists (well I am speaking for myself, I just really enjoyed their document as a social scientist and as a learner as well).  This idea of “Killing of imagination” is so true. Last semester I had a paper to write, the instructor encouraged us to be creative with the paper, we read narratives and poetry the week prior to the paper to inspire us and get ideas.  That paper was so difficult for me to start. Prior to grad school I prided my self in my narrative writing skills and “fluffy” writing concept (as a professor I had in undergrad once told me). But graduate school had conditioned me so much to “scientifically” write straightforward, “get straight to the point”, “no need for all these extra words”,”cite, don’t forget to cite properly” writing that this task that I use to love so much to free flow write was extremely difficult for me to at least start. I thought about it for a week, I sat in front of my computer for hours, nothing. Then I started and it all came back, it was just pouring out on my keyboard, it felt so good to let my imagination and creativity guide my writing. I thanked the instructor after turning in my paper, I told her it was difficult for me to start but as I my imagination shifted into gear I could not stop. Looking back I ask myself “What caused that block?” as mentioned before I once prided myself on the words I was able to put together to describe scenes in my head…my imagination had been kilt as I adapted to the way things are supposed to be, written and read in graduate school.

This brings me to the discussion that we had last week. Someone mentioned that she had never heard the phrase “This is just how it has been done for years” until she came here.  As a society I do have to say we have been conditioned and fixed to operate a certain way..”for years” or “years it has been done” without using our imagination. The reading touched on this concept as well the conditioning of to just operate in the way it is and has been done for years with out using our imagination. I also noticed it earlier. My childhood consisted of barbies, I collected them as well. I had the barbie car, the barbie dream house, the grocery store, the tour bus, the Spice Girl barbie, Pocahontas barbie, anything Barbie in the 90s you name it I had it! (still do). Came up with the best stories to play with them as well, my imagination as a child has great! My barbies had the best adventures, I do have to say so myself!

When went back home this summer and explored all the bins that stored my barbies for all these years and as I attempted to play with them and use my imagination to come up with the great adventures to take my barbies on as a 24 year old adult I couldn’t, it was hard I gave up and put them away. Something I once loved, all the stories, games and adventures my mind was able to create as a child was no longer able to do so. As I read the Imagination First document and the  “either you have it or you don’t” discussion I could not help to think of this experience and at the time I definitely felt like I did not have my imagination that day. The authors state that “the challenge is how to increase the potency and reach of the imagination”. As  learners and instructors this piece really encouraged the students use of imagination. With all this said and after reading this document it all makes sense! As instructors we should challenge our selves and our students to tap in or back into those imaginative spaces.

This also reminded me of the movie Hook with Robin Williams. Last year, someone really wanted me to watch it because I would really enjoy it do to my “imagination” and sense of humor. Long story short if you haven’t seen the movie Peter (Robin Williams) goes back to Never Land as an adult and has to use his imagination to see and even eat the things in Never Land. In one scene Peter is watching the Lost Boys were “eating” Peter couldn’t eat and see the food unless he used his imagination. Peter did he pushed his self to use his imagination and he did he saw the food, he ate, he tasted it and even started throwing it around and caused a food fight and the Lost Boys screamed “YOU’RE DOING IT! YOU’RE USING YOUR IMAGINATION!”

That same someone that told me to watch this movie and particularly this part of the movie told me “Take your imagination to the moon” “share everything you’re learning with others” and that is what I plan to do.

“To see oneself as pursuing a purpose and following a call, rather than merely going through the motion, is itself an act of imagination” pg.35  (act of reflection in action) -fighting the fear of what if

“Why imagination? Because without it, education is utterly empty” pg.30