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.