Sarah Deel’s “Finding My Teaching Voice discusses Deel’s journey of developing her teaching method. She goes through her experience as a teacher in which she developed her teaching method initially from mimicking teacher she found to good professor to her experiences leading her to discovering that she had to be herself as a teacher. As I was reading and considering what to write for my blog, I found myself relating and questioning myself to her experience.
For the most part I don’t have to the teaching part for my GTA position, I only have to teach review sessions. (And let’s just say that the first review sessions I did in person didn’t go horribly wrong. I mean, I didn’t fall flat on my face, but I highly doubt I impressed anyone and I probably wouldn’t have passed the speech if my cohorts were grading me. Although, I hear that you eventually stop shaking from nerves after speaking in public. If anyone has an idea when that happens, I would very much appreciate knowing when this happens.) I planned and prepped for the review session, yet, Murphy’s law has set the precedence for this semester and I don’t think it will be overturned any time soon. It’s overwhelming at times. All I can think about is the amount of work piling up and there seems to be no way of getting ahead of the storm. I’m still accruing more and more work. This weekend I sent and responded to 201 emails (well, 194 emails from students, 5 emails to professors, and 2 email from an Orioles minion). The good news is I’ve only got 50 emails left in my inbox. The bad news is that I have to add 54 emails to that list or else put them in the danger zone of failing the semester already.
I wish I could throw my email woes aside and think about how to develop a teaching method, but as I look at “The Authentic Teaching Self and Communication Skills,” I’m not sure where to begin. “Be yourself” and ”be genuine” are good pieces of advice, but honestly, right now what does that mean? You want me to be a neurotic, sleep-deprived, control-freak overachiever? How can I be myself when I can’t even figure out how to balance an insane amount of emails with everything else? I know it can be done. I’ve watched my cohorts figure it out and now, it is my turn. I don’t know where to begin at drawing the lines. How do you walk the line between babying students and understanding they are stretched to the max? I don’t think I can develop an authentic teaching self until I experience the basics. However, I do know I can begin to look at what I don’t want to be.
Stephen King once wrote that you learn more from bad writing than good writing. I think this can apply to teaching as well. There is something about a wonderful teacher that is indescribable. They just make everything work. You find yourself embracing the passion they display and you’re inspired to learn and do more with what they teach, but more importantly, it stays with you for the rest of your life. Most teachers are good; they may not change your perception of the world, but they accept you and teach you all the same.
However, bad teachers haunt you for a long time and their shortcoming can impact and hinder your education for years. This is why I think when you are trying got develop your authentic teaching self, maybe the place to begin is discovering who you don’t want to be. Bad teachers come in all different forms. There is the lazy teacher who really doesn’t want to be teaching or the teacher who has no idea what they are teaching and believe that the textbook needs to be read out loud word for word. Some teachers are trying too hard to be someone else and in turn they become not only disrespectful to their students, they become disrespectful to themselves. Other bad teachers are the ones that believe in the “best of their opinion.” They are the ones that show favoritism while they devalue and demean others. You have the good teachers broken into bad teachers by the system and you have bad teachers upheld by the system as good ones while they continue to bully their students. The list could go on. I’m sure our class has plenty of examples and horror stories they could discuss.
Everyone has had a bad teacher and we have all thought “I would never be like this as a teacher.” Maybe the most authentic thing I can do right now is decide on who I’m not going to be. Maybe when it comes to self-discovery as a teacher we need to decide not only on who we want to be, but also on who we know we shouldn’t be as a teacher, because ultimately, at this point in my life, I’m a student, not a teacher. The only way I am going to cross the bridge into being an educator is by knowing what I can be all while still being me.