By my calculations, between the years of 2011 and 2020, I have participated in at least 61 classes at three different institutions of higher education. I’ve taken courses ranging from “Existentialist Philosophy” and “Islam and Christian Theology” to “Finite Element Methods” and “Geotechnical Earthquake Engineering.” To say that I’ve been exposed to several different teaching philosophies would be an understatement.
As an aspiring professor, I have given a good deal of thought to what kind of professor I want to be. My thoughts have largely been formed by taking note of the behaviors, policies, and attitudes of the professors and classes that did and didn’t resonate with me. After reading some of materials this week, I realize this is probably not the best approach.
I really liked how Sarah Deel described her “acceptance of my teaching voice as an extension of myself.” This feels particularly relevant to me in this stage of my life after leaving my job to come back to school in pursuit of better aligning my personal strengths and passions with my future career. Who am I, and what are the unique skills or qualities that I can lean into to be a more authentic teacher? I have a few thoughts.
I am focused. I stay on track, prioritize, and act on previously made plans and decisions. As a teacher, I will be well prepared for my lectures, I will present the material in a logical and coherent way, and I will have a well-defined plan for the semester.
I am responsible. I take ownership of what I say I will do, I am honest, dependable, and efficient. As a teacher, I will be direct with my students. I will clue them into pedagogical decisions I am making, and I will be honest about my expectations of them. I will be consistent and dependable in my interactions with them.
I am a hard worker. I have the stamina to take on big projects and see them through to the end. I think that being fully dedicated to your class as a teacher is easier said than done. But I believe that buy-in (to a successful classroom environment, to a successful semester) from the teacher is just as important as buy-in from the students. It will require a lot of energy and a lot of prioritization to be able to dedicate myself intentionally to my teaching while also juggling the other responsibilities of being a professor. With a little planning, I know I can do it.
Finally, I think Deel’s perspective on having a “flexible, not static” teaching self is important. If this year has taught us anything, it’s that being flexible and willing to re-evaluate and question EVERYTHING we think to be true about ourselves and the world around us is integral to being a resilient force for good in the world.