The Authentic Teaching Self – Always a Work in Progress

It is almost absurd to think that the majority of teachers teaching below the collegiate level typically have years of training, whereas some collegiate teachers merely have a class handed over to them even though they may have zero teaching qualifications. Similar to what was said in Finding My Teaching Voice, I feel that many collegiate professors only know about teaching what they have experienced themselves. This can be both a good thing and bad thing. Some of the practices used by my teachers and professors throughout the years have really stuck with me and are applied into my own teaching. However, I would say with confidence that we have all had what I would consider to be bad teachers, or at least ones that implemented bad teaching practices.

The whole “being a well-liked female professor while still maintaining authority” thing really resonated with me. Especially being fairly close in age to the students, I find it important that they respect me as an authoritative figure, while still feeling comfortable enough to have authentic conversations with me. After all, I feel like I’m there to help them in whatever academic capacity I can. This is what I told my students the other day when I subbed my professor’s class – that I am here to talk with them about internships, graduate school, etc. in addition to the class itself.

For my Graduate Teaching Scholars class, one assignment required students to read Parker J. Palmer’s The Courage to Teach. Although at times a bit monotonous, this book did a great job at discussing one’s authentic self and the importance of this in the scope of teaching and shares a few ideas with Sarah Deel’s article. How cool is it that while our students are trying to figure out who they are, we, as teachers, are also doing the same? The past couple of years I have become more reflective as I read more and more about authenticity in teaching. I think that authenticity requires vulnerability. Lately, I’ve been more ok with being vulnerable in academic life and life in general. Sometimes it is seen as such a bad thing when I’m beginning to learn that it is actually very powerful.

Although some of these points may seem self-explanatory, The Authentic Teaching Self and Communication Skills document provides concrete examples of how to improve teaching. Through the years I’ve begun to appreciate and become more tuned in to the physical aspects of good teaching. I find myself “hiding” behind the podium sometimes when giving presentations. I’ve worked my way up to walking around a bit. It helps me to relax and typically contributes to having better rapport with students. This is not something I’ve been able to achieve over night. I have been both figuratively and literally taking baby steps. But I promise that practice helps. Good teaching truly is a process where you’re always re-evaluating yourself. It is easy to be hard on oneself through this continuous process, but you just have to be ok with the fact that doing something wrong is fine; you’ll try to do better the next time.

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