Still Finding My Voice

Sarah Deel said that she is “…fascinated by this process of figuring out who I am as a teacher,” which is really encouraging to me because I honestly do not know my teaching voice, so to read that someone who currently is a teacher is still working on this is comforting. I have only ever guest lectured for professors when they were out of town or been a teaching assistant for a class/lab that did not require me to be the main teacher so I have not been able to find/discover/create my voice yet.

 

I would like to think that I would be an approachable, likeable, funny, easy-going teacher, but like Deel said it is a fine line between being liked and being respected as a teacher so maybe that would not be my true teaching voice after all. I may end up being the opposite of how I usually act so I can actually be a disciplined, uncool, hard-nosed teacher, which to me seems like some hallmarks of good teachers I have had in the past. I honestly do not think I could be that sort of teacher, though. I think laughing is the most important thing we do everyday, which may not bode well for being an effective teacher. That being said, Shelli Fowler gives points that allow us to discover our authentic teaching self and a few of her points really stood out to me: be genuine, don’t pose/posture, and that we can control the classroom without being controlling. To me, knowing that these are considered important aspects of being a teacher gives me some hope that I can be my normal, goofy self in the classroom and even if students think I may be a dork or unfunny at least they will know that I want to be honest with them and that they can trust me. And being trusted is important for being able to communicate with students so they feel comfortable engaging with you on things they otherwise may not bring up with someone they do not trust.

 

I think teaching is probably like most things in life that require a balance so I can be pretty sure that whatever voice I find I will not only incorporate jokes and witty comments, but will probably include some hard-nosed teaching as well. And that is alright with me. If being known as a teacher who will make you laugh, but also make you think hard and work hard is what I can be known as I would take that voice in a second.

13 thoughts on “Still Finding My Voice”

  1. I really enjoy your post here and resonate with a lot of your ideas! Finding a good balance between your voice and your teacher voice is quite challenging, especially early on. I too would take the voice you described in your conclusion here of a teacher who can make you laugh but also makes you think hard and learn. That to me is the perfect teaching voice!

    1. Thanks! I think so too. I felt silly feeling the need to write out that a balance is needed considering that is true for pretty much every scenario in life, but that concept of balance definitely evades us at times!

  2. Most of the courses I’ve taken as an undergraduate that remain positively engrained in my memory involved spontaneous humor throughout the various lectures. I believe you should continue being funny if this is the person you are, afteral, the your students are just as human as you, and humor or random stories always make class fun. And don’t worry about being a dork, we’re PhD students for a reason. But, I believe a balance is always important. Learning should be exciting (humorous life examples, and random disconnected stories).

    1. Oh definitely. I don’t want to say the teachers who made me laugh were better than others, but I would say I felt more comfortable as a student when listening to and learning from those teachers so it would be great to provide that for my students. And yeah being a dork is on my resume so it’s definitely something I’m proud to call myself.

  3. I agree with you all.

    Also remember that finding your voice is also about being genuine as a teacher. I don’t think you will be able to find your teaching voice as something apart from your personality because it won’t be genuine. I don’t think you need to stop being yourself to have control and discipline in the classroom, like Shelli says.

    It’s all about being yourself, feeling comfortable, and having balance like some other people mentioned.

    1. Yeah, I think I will be able to be myself when I am teaching (even if it takes a few tries), but it’s weird because I feel as if plenty of teachers I’ve had in the past were very different outside the classroom compared to how they were inside the classroom. Obviously not all teachers are going to have the same teaching philosophy, but I am definitely of the mindset that being comfortable and being myself is important as a teacher.

  4. Striking a balance between who you are socially and who you are professionally is important, in any profession. My first attempt at teaching in a classroom I had no idea what I was doing. I wanted to present myself as authoritative, credible – that was more about my own inexperience than any teaching philosophy (which I knew nothing about). It was so much better for myself and for my students when I got over that. If nothing else, I’m having more fun with it. And that’s something.

    1. That’s nice to hear you were able to notice what you wanted to change about your teaching style and then made that change. I feel as if there are plenty of teachers who do reflect on how they’re teaching and make the changes they feel are necessary, but on the other side I feel like there are plenty who don’t care/don’t see that they are turning their students away and never adjust. It probably isn’t easy to realize you may be doing something wrong that should be changed, but humility is a great attribute to have as a teacher, I feel, and I hope I’m able to have some of my own.

  5. I remember when I did the TA workshop a couple of years ago, one of the presenters told a story of her first teaching experiences. Overall, she wanted her students to like her. That was her first approach to who to be in the classroom. She wanted her students to think of her as someone “cool”. But later on she got to the point where what she really had to expect from the students was respect. I think most teachers/instructors/professors start out with similar concerns in their first teaching experiences. I too wanted my students to like me. But there are times when discipline needs to kick in and then some of them will stop liking you. I am still trying to figure that part out, how to discipline when it is needed while avoiding too much resentment on the student side. But afterall, and as some others have already commented, be yourself, use the trial and error method to see what works and what doesn’t for you in the classroom and, if you are humorous, tell some jokes. For example, today in my class most students were not very engaged in the begining. However, after I made an spontaneous joke, a spark lit up the students and the mood was so much better for the rest of the class. So if you are the humorous type, use it to your own advantage (and ultimately, the student’s advantage). That’s my two cents now that I am starting to slowly find some of my teaching self.

  6. In my experience I haven’t really seen too much correlation between a teacher being funny or serious and how good a teacher that person is. It’s perfectly okay to be approachable, likeable, easy going like you said you wish to be, and my intuition is that there will be some students in class that will try to take advantage of that. As long as we are wary not to let them manipulate us and have a few solid boundaries (you don’t turn in a homework you get a zero on that homework) getting their respect shouldn’t be too difficult.

  7. I share the same sentiments. Teaching is mysterious, shocking, and risky. Its like you never know what’s going to work or not until you try. I like to view teaching and finding your voice as Play Dough. With Play Dough you can shape, mold, and almost anything else creative, but the shape or structure evolves when someone interacts with it or does something to alter it actively, which becomes a two-way construction.

    Play Dough serves as a meaning making tool (Teacher) and the creator (Student) interact with it as an active process. In relating the Play Dough to the post, using your humor or free spirit to engage or capture their attention is like providing them with different tools to construct different designs in the Play Dough (The subject you’re teaching). I’m not sure the direction I was going, but I hope I didn’t confuse you. Great post!

  8. Some of the best classes I’ve had in the past were taught by goofy playful teachers and some others by stern glasses-on-the-nose types. I don’t really think it matters as long as there is effective communication of the subject matter in the most natural matter possible. Students can sense right away if the professor has a good control of the class and this (in my opinion) is related to how well the professor is able to be his/her natural self. There is nothing worse than having a reserved professor try to act funny all the time. The result would be infinite corniness. Bottom line to me would be to be who your are and present your materials in your natural self.

  9. Just yesterday, on a conversation about race/racism/being an ally, I told my class that “I am probably the whitest white person you will ever meet, but…” and went on to explain how being an ally to groups you don’t belong to works.
    It is a fine line. I’m naturally goofy, but I will not hesitate to get my class back in line if I have to. My policies were called strict on the first day of class, I take a no nonsense approach to things in my syllabus. but I still manage to be personable and give students real-time feedback that will help them mature and hopefully leave my class just a little bit more grown up than when they walked in.

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