Even if the shoe fits, you should find your own shoe.

 

I have always enjoyed school, from the new notebooks to the new classmates, but what really made me school experience shine for me, was that of who was teaching me. I have always been one to admire the professors I have had and their passion for learning (I was graced with great teachers all through my undergrad—there isn’t one I look back on and are like “ he/she was the absolute worst!”, which, I feel very fortunate for. However, this is also a hard burden to bare—I never want to be the “the absolute worst” for any of my students that I teach, and that is a lot of responsibility. I never want to be the professor people dread having a class with.

Though, I currently am not in what others would consider a typical classroom (I am actually in a residence hall), I  still consider myself an educator—just with a lot more noise and a personal ~homey~ ambiance. When I was reading “Finding My Teaching Voice” by Sarah E. Deel, I found myself really resonating with what she said about finding yourself as an educator and the twists and turns of developing your own style and identity.

When I entered my role of being an Assistant Residential Learning Coordinator, I had zero residence life experience and was looking for the best ways to reach my students and give them the best experience possible. I did not want them to feel like they got the short-end of the stick so to speak with having a coordinator that did not have prior experience. I found myself turning to my supervisor and observing her style. In my eyes, she was this confident, experienced, and engaging educator. She had a take-charge attitude with a mix of assertiveness and relatable & personable demeanor.

The students we worked with were very receptive to her style and since I was new, I was still going through the growing pains of trying out new styles and seeing if they would work. I, like Sarah, felt like I was not sure I belonged here and doubted myself and my abilities as an educator. I had a couple misses with different styles with my student staff and I saw how receptive students where to her demeanor and ways, I tried to be like her. Like Sarah, I had resigned myself to thinking that my approach and ways were not good so I should just emulate someone’s ways that works and works well.

What I failed to realize, is we were totally different people and I didn’t account for our personality differences. By putting on my supervisor’s teaching voice, I was not being true to myself and giving myself grace to fully figure out who and what kind of educator I could be. It was exhausting trying to be like my supervisor with teaching, I could do the same thing she did, but end up with totally different results and reactions. I felt defeated, I thought my way did not work and then when I tried a way that worked for someone else, and it still was not working. I did not know what to do and I did not want to let my students down.

I started talking with my supervisor more about this feeling of being an imposter and not wanting to let down the students counting on me. In this conversation, I had my own version of Sarah’s “ah-ha” moment when I realized that there are many ways to be an effective educator. Once I started being more true to myself- just as Sarah did- I realized, I was having much better results. By giving myself grace to be my authentic self (weird enthusiasm & positivity and all), I realized that though I have my own way of educating,  it does not make it any less valid. When I brought more of myself into my work, I had much better feedback from staff. Like the other article, “The Authentic Teaching Self and Communication Skills” by Professor Fowler said, “students see posing and posturing very quickly; do not be someone you are not in your classroom”. I believe this full-heartedly rings true. I agree with Sarah when she said, “because I am more relaxed about interacting with my students, my communication with them seems to go more smoothly”. The second I stopped trying to be someone else, my relationships with my students grew stronger.

As I continue to grow and explore as an educator, I know that I plan on staying true to who I am throughout the process. I just wish I had learned this lesson the first week on the job.

“It’s only crazy until you do it”

I really enjoyed reading “The Power of Mindful Learning” by Ellen Langer. I think that it is easy to get on “auto pilot” as the article states. We are going through our daily life and we know what we have to do to get from day to day. What I think that gets difficult, is taking the time to create moments of intentionality and questioning, why we do what we do and how can we get out of the autopilot mode. I am the first to admit, I am a creature of habit and that I am very grateful for people that automatically just go against the grain. However, this article really made me think about my practices with my students, and how I can get into autopilot mode and the dangers that possesses.

However, this article made think about the overall concept of learning and it reminded me of the new Nike Ad with Colin Kaepernick. The ad really conveyed the idea that “it’s only crazy until you do it”, really trying to drive home the point that we keep trying to emulate these sports stars, but what we should be doing is imagining ourselves as those sports stars (Nike Ad). In my mind, I saw clear connection with our reading, “The Power of Mindful Learning”. In the reading, it stated that we get so used to just learning or doing what those before us that we do not think of new ways to improve or do it differently. We just see what others have done or are doing, and do it the way they do it. The article really talked about how if we just continue doing the norm, nothing is ever going to progress for the better. The article stated “when faced with something that hasn’t been done before, people frequently express the belief that it can’t be done. All progress, of course, depends on questioning that belief. Everything is the same until it is not”. That we can idly just do the routine, but what we need to do is shake things up so that we give our students room to imagine the possibility of the situation.

I know that incorporating this mindfulness practice is more work and it requires more front planning as educators to not just do the standard lecture or classroom knowledge delivery. However, think of all that we could do if we incorporated more mindfulness into our practice and really tried to not just stick to what we know and to give students a chance to be able to very their approaches—all the new ideas/things that could be achieved. I know that from this reading, I will really try to do more conditional practices in my day to day to work with my students and staff.

To have technology or to not have technology, that is the question.

Engaging the imaginations of digital learners has been an interesting endeavor for me to learn and think about this week. I have gone back and forth numerous times about where I stand on this concept of digital learning. On one hand, I think it creates an avenue of being able to be creative in how you facilitate your class and break down barriers of access for students. On the other hand, as someone that has sat in a classroom before, it’s not uncommon to see your fellow students “abusing” technology, aka watching the person in front of you watch episodes of Grey’s Anatomy.

Personally, I know that I have a bias sometimes regarding incorporating technology into my practices. I know I am very susceptible to being distracted by my phone or laptop and I can impose that bias on others. In my graduate assistantship role, I supervise 13 student staff members and during my weekly staff meetings, I have them put away any laptops or cellphones if they are not involved directly in an activity we are doing. I just feel like the second cell phones are out, it opens up for distractions.

Similarly, to what the Anya Kamenetz article talks about how that one teacher would walk into a room and just see all the students on their phones and not engaging with each other, I have seen this as well. If you do not have phones allowed, it can facilitate conversation between individuals faster I feel than if they did have them out. I feel that we can learn so much from others when we are just in community and engaging with each other.

On the other side of if technology should be in the classroom, I see many valid points and reasons it can be effective and should be implemented. The Anya Kamenetz article talks about how if you make a total ban of technology, if a student has a learning disability, it can unintentionally “out” them if they are using technology. As someone that does have a sibling who has a severe learning disability, I know how important learning assistive devices can be in the classroom. As well as how it can feel to not feel like you have agency in your choice of disclosing to others if you do in fact have a learning disability. It is personal information, and you should  feel obligated to inform everyone you are in a class with unless you want to.

As well as the article talks about how people in industry believe that technology can be the way of the future for the classroom. They made an interesting point along the lines of if they are using it, why not figure out ways to effectively incorporate it into the classroom. I feel that using technology should be intentional and well thought out so that you do not just spend every class trying to get the technology to work or explaining how to use the technology every time. I believe that as time goes on, we are going to keep moving towards being a technological society so how can we use technology effectively in the classroom? I would be interested to see studies that look at various online methods to see what has the best results. I feel that I need to do more research on this.

I thought it was interesting to note in the article that with the technology boom, that they reference apps that can block technology for students while they are trying to do work. I think this shows the pull technology can have on students while they are trying to be productive. I know in my undergrad, my roommate used a website that would block her from social media sites for however long she set it so that she would not get distracted by the internet while she was doing her schoolwork—how ironic that technology was both the cause of the problem and the solution to the problem.

How do you feel about technology in the classroom? Have you ever had it implanted really well in a class you’ve taken or do you feel the impact is mostly negative? I am interested in learning others perspectives on this matter.