Discovering my Teaching Self

The post by Sarah Deel resonated well with me. I felt like she was talking about me while reading her first 3 paragraphs. My first experience with teaching came in my second semester during my Masters program at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. I was the teaching assistant in one of the Civil Engineering labs in-charge of about 20 students. Prior to that time, I never knew anything about teaching apart from what I have seen all my teachers do, over the years that I have been a student. However, I just thought teaching should flow naturally to me since its just about passing across information and knowledge, but I was very wrong with that assumption.

Being an international student in the United State and having studied in English all my life, it was a little difficult to communicate sometimes while I was teaching. The major obstacle was the difference in meaning of the same words and difference in how the same words are pronounced based on American English and the British English. My country educational system is based on the British educational system, so for instance, pronouncing words like ‘mobile’, ‘garage’ etc to a class full of American undergraduate students was a herculean task. Coupled with my accent, It felt like I was speaking a different language from English and I could tell from the look on some of their faces, that they got lost at some point and I had to repeat myself many times. The thought of, do they understand what I am talking about? Am I passing the information across? etc derailed my teaching sometimes and I lost focus.

The part of the article that also resonated well with me is how to strike a balance between being a buddy of your students while at the same time keeping it very professional. I have also battle with striking that balance because I quite agree with the views of the author. I feel like Its difficult to maintain authority while also trying to crack jokes or be their buddy. This is because at times, students might overstep their boundaries. Cracking jokes and trying to be humorous might be a dicey one because humor means different things to different people with different background or culture. There are some jokesĀ  that might sit well with some particular group while it doesn’t go well with the others, since most classrooms are diverse. I feel like one has to get to a point where you separate emotions from the grading and be able to access students based on the work they presented without positive or negative bias. Consequently, I believe finding my teaching voice and striking a balance takes time, and it improves with experience.