GRAD5114: Know yourself and your students

I have taught online classes and have worked as teaching assistant for four semesters and I’ll be teaching my first in-class course in Spring 2016 semester! I am really excited about it and I also start getting prepared for it this semester. This week’s reading is really helpful for my preparation and makes me think about my own teaching style and imagine myself teaching my own class.

I have given several guest lectures about different topics in aging, and my teaching supervisors have given me great feedback and suggestions about my teaching. I admit that discover my authentic teaching self has always been challenging.

At first, I was really concerned about teaching in English as English is my second language. I wasn’t confident enough about giving lectures or answering students’ questions, so before giving guest lectures, I practiced my lecture many many times, just like preparing for a conference paper presentation. However, after several guest lecture, I found that even though you need to be really fluent in English, teaching needs really more than that! It’s not really the language that I am using, it’s the content, teaching skill and techniques that matter the most. I also noticed that when I was passionate about the topic that I was teaching, I’d be less concerned about the language that I was using, and I could still explain issues and answer students’ questions clearly. Instead, if I wasn’t confident about the teaching content, then no matter how many times I practiced in English, I could still got stuck in certain points. So later on, I concerned less about speaking in English, instead I focused on the content and the materials that I’d be using during classes.

Once I gave a guest lecture about international aging issues,  I realized that even though I was so passionate about the content and I knew it so well that I could talk about in very confidently, the students were not intrigued by my lecture. After the lecture,  I talked with my supervisor who observed my lecture about my concerned, and he told me that my lecture was great, but I didn’t talked about how those issues could be connected with the students in my class. For instance, I talked about the aging population in China was huge, but obvious the the single  statistical number did not really mean anything the students, so next time I added the number of older adults in the U.S. and compared that to the aging population in other countries, then the students had a better idea of those numbers. Later on, I also found that when I know my students better, I can use different ways to get them focused on the topic and have a better understanding of the issues that I want them to know.

I do think guest lectures are quite different from teaching the whole class. I’m still working on discovering my own teaching self, and I look forward to teaching my first own in-class course this coming semester!


4 thoughts on “GRAD5114: Know yourself and your students”

  1. Thanks for reminding us that teaching is always challenging, but teaching in a language that isn’t your native language is even more difficult! I’m glad that you find the classroom a more comfortable space when you are able to teach something that excites and inspires you. And I wonder if you will have the chance to try other teaching modalities besides lecturing when you teach your own face-to-face course next semester?

    1. Thank you so much for your comments! I am thinking about lectures, class activities, etc. for my class. I think I should be able to try other modalities besides lecturing. The class is about lifespan community services, I want to be more creative and make the class more fun!

  2. We will always face some problems in teaching. I’m an international instructor too. Language is the first problem for me in my teaching. But sometimes we could use our different cultural backgrounds to give more to students.

  3. I totally agree when you say that knowing your students is really important to make teaching more effective. Regardless of nationality, language skills, or cultural background, I think that knowing who your students does influence how a teacher is perceived by students and will determine student-teacher interactions. As we develop ourselves as teachers, we need to incorporate the skills that help us gather information about our students. A good skill to acquire active listening to get to know our students and create a healthy class dynamic.

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