Discovering your teaching self

The greatest enemy in teaching is boredom. Sitting and listening, sitting and reading, sitting and pretty much anything – these are all generally boring activities. And when you’re bored, your mind wanders away from what it’s supposed to be learning. Yet this is the most common and certainly the easiest way to teach.

I’m no comedian, so I won’t be entertaining my students with lectures of laughs. I’m not much of a storyteller, nor did I appreciate it when my teachers went off on long tangents. I managed to be somewhat of a jokester when teaching elementary age kids, but older students don’t appreciate that energy from an adult. So, rather than changing who I am for my students, what I try to be is relatable.

When a teacher is relatable, the students can feel more comfortable in a classroom. Anxiety is another detriment to learning, so easing any nervous energy can help facilitate learning. Students are more likely to ask questions and participate in discussions. When the lecture becomes more like a conversation, students engage with the class content, turning the material over in their minds and looking for holes. Doing so helps them gain understanding and commit it to memory, even if they are not speaking up about it.

In this manner, I try to make my classes interactive. Not everyone will feel comfortable with speaking out, but it’s still possible to engage these students in a one-way conversation. I can ask questions, prompt ideas about the material without immediately answering, pause before the ends of sentences to make students fill in the blank. I like to use animations, pictures, and comics (I’ll let someone else write the jokes) in my slides to visually re-capture any students who lost track of the conversation.

Moving forward, I would like to build games into my classes. I feel like my current teaching style targets oral attention (through conversation) and visual attention (through animated slides), but hands-on learning seems the best way to combat boredom. Ideally, the games would keep the interest of the students who don’t like to be vocal and, of course, would be fun. More brainstorming is needed!

5 Replies to “Discovering your teaching self”

  1. I think making classes interactive and including games of some sort are great ideas to prevent classes from becoming boring. I feel that it is important to recapture students’ attention frequently, as I remember zoning out during classes in undergrad when the material grew monotonous and then having trouble understanding things when I was able to refocus. So, I’m glad you have identified this as an issue and have made steps to consider ways to fix it!

    1. Hi Tanya & Allis96 (sorry, by your username I don’t know who you are), I agree that making classes interactive and engaging is an effective way to teach. Students remember those kinds of courses, because people tend to learn best by doing. Making the class memorable is important and Tanya, I think you shared a lot of examples of how you used different media (cartoons, videos, etc.) to capture your student’s interest and curiosity. We try and share a lot of ideas about how to do this in this course and so I think you will have plenty to brainstorm about for when you plan your next course/decide it’s time to fold fresh ideas into what you are currently teaching. Thanks for sharing this week!

  2. Hi Tanya & Allis96 (sorry, by your username I don’t know who you are), I agree that making classes interactive and engaging is an effective way to teach. Students remember those kinds of courses, because people tend to learn best by doing. Making the class memorable is important and Tanya, I think you shared a lot of examples of how you used different media (cartoons, videos, etc.) to capture your student’s interest and curiosity. We try and share a lot of ideas about how to do this in this course and so I think you will have plenty to brainstorm about for when you plan your next course/decide it’s time to fold fresh ideas into what you are currently teaching. Thanks for sharing this week!

  3. Hi Tanya,
    I strongly agree with your post. Last week in the breakout room with Sara, I was speaking about the things that students see through in the classroom. If the teacher is bored with what they are teaching the students, the students will also feel bored with the content. It is important to remember that students often exude the same energy that instructors do.
    In my public speaking class, quelling anxiety within the classroom is crucial in what I do. I am asking my students to be vulnerable in the classroom (both virtual and in person), and we address speaking anxiety on the second day of class. I agree with your notion that it can be a deterrent to learning, and I think another one of an instructor’s hundred jobs to quell all anxiety, in all disciplines.

  4. Hi Tanya,
    Thanks for your post. I appreciate that you start with defining and problem in the classroom and work toward providing a solution that works for both you and the students. Similar to you, I have found that humor does not work very well for me either – I learned this the hard way with a few awkward silences. Regarding your point about engaging the students through being relatable, I have found this works very well for me also. Remembering what it was like for me as a student learning certain material for the first time helps me be more relatable to the students so that I can present the material more effectively.

    I think the idea of bringing games into the classroom is a great idea! Most students love to play games and I think many people learn better when they are doing/interacting with the material rather than just reading about it or listening to someone else recite it.

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