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.

4 Replies to “Finding the Balance”

  1. Thanks for sharing!

    We have all been there, it’s a process. Finding your teaching voice requires a lot of time, practice, awareness, and what is most important for me: a lot of reflection during the process.

    Over time you start recognizing what things work for you, what things doesn’t and what you can do to improve them.

    I believe the most difficult aspect of it is to be able to overcome what doesn’t work in your teaching style, and finding the balance of having control but being approachable while at the same time being yourself.

    For me it has to do a lot with understanding what are your values and beliefs. Then you can prioritize on what things you can really change because they don’t matter that much to you, and what other things are the most important aspects of your personality.

    It is a great process that can be frustrating sometimes but you will get there, keep doing the great work.



  2. Thanks for sharing Jariah! I have been working on becoming more mindful of my moods and quirks to improve my teaching and speaking! For example, I get extremely anxious when I have to talk in front of people, I have really bad ADD and I sometimes forget where I’m going with a thought. When I’m anxious I become extremely sarcastic as a coping mechanism, it’s usually meant as humor, but sometimes misinterpreted as anything other that good fun. So to improve I have been trying to be mindful not only of my anxiety but also how I cope with it.
    Also, I found that focusing more on the person I want to be for my students and less about how I come off in class (like I have it all together because we all know I don’t) has been helpful as well!

    In solidarity and anxiety!

  3. Another person with anxiety checking-in! Like Alex my sarcasm level tends to go up the more anxious I am (which probably explains why I’m so sarcastic in our Wednesday night classes…whoops). I really appreciate the fact that you own the anxiety part.


    What do you think about the possibility of respect being a mutable, flexible, and emergent property? (Maybe, even something that sometimes (often?) isn’t the way we normally conceptualize it.)

    When I read your post it reminded me a lot of something called Restorative Practices and being in the “with” box which is high in both support and “control” (challenge). This dynamic usually includes mutual respect but doesn’t expect the respect to be a given at the start, but rather takes it as something that is made, remade, changed, and adapted to the people doing the relating.


  4. Everyone wants to be that ‘cool teacher’ and nobody wants to be ‘that one teacher’, you know the one that students avoid and break down crying during tests. I feel it is difficult to find the limit of being able to give your students control while still maintaining control of the class. But, I’m thinking, if you focus less on how to be their friend and more on how to help them learn and push them along then then hopefully the earlier will come naturally.

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