I am me and I can be no one else.
I think I’ve known that from very early on in my teaching career. I’m not good at being something I’m not…at being something someone else is. My longest and most respected friend is also a teacher. I respect her teaching style very much, but it is not mine. I can only be me. And while I believe that the use of technology is very important, should be used, learned, etc., I think the teacher is still the most important educator in the room.
What I know about me:
I have a booming voice and I use it.
Students don’t have a hard time hearing me. I walk around the classroom. I gesture. I get excited sometimes. I also give students time to reflect and all is quiet…until I talk again. It is very similar to my “mom” voice.
I like concepts over details.
The devil is in the details and I like to stay away from the devil. Concepts in history or any subject, even math, are more interesting to me than details.
I like to teach skills and not dates.
Change over time is important in history and dates are important – but only when put in context and show the change over time. And while my students may or may not remember the dates of the Old Kingdom of Egypt (probably not) I do believe they will remember skills I teach them such as citing, writing in active voice, analyzing historical images and primary source material, learning to think critically and to write coherently.
I am organized but can change the plan if need be.
I believe planning for a class is very, very, very important; however, changing things to accommodate learning or the needs of students must be a tool I have in my “toolbox”, so to speak. Flexibility is important to me. Students learn in very different ways. I learn best in very traditional ways, but many people do not. My husband is convinced that the only way to teach is using the Socratic method. (Yes, of course I have wanted to sock him on numerous occasions.) I must be flexible to change plans on the fly or change an overall plan if need be to help learning.
I take teaching very seriously.
Teaching is a priority. The students or their parents (or the government, scholarship etc.) paid a lot of money to be sitting in the seat in my classroom. It is my duty, my responsibility to do the absolute best job I can in teaching them. Period.
I feel at ease in a classroom.
I just am. I couldn’t bring myself to be nervous the first time I taught in a college classroom, although I probably could use a little nervous energy.
I am easy going and approachable, but set boundaries.
Thirty year olds I taught in middle and high school still call me “Ms. Skiles” and my college students call me Ms. Skiles as well, not Faith. My communications with them are on a very professional nature. Students though feel free to ask me the stupidest questions. It is amazing what connections you can make for students that they just “missed” somewhere along the line. In tutoring calculus, I find most students don’t have trouble with calculus, they just “missed” something in algebra, which you must know to do calculus. The only way to fill in these missing pieces is to be open to “stupid” questions and not to minimize their lack of knowledge. I answer emails from students that ask seemingly simple questions often with the phrase, “Good question” or “Thank you for the question.” This is my philosophy and it doesn’t have to be yours.
I like students to explore on their own.
I am happy when they tell me about something I don’t know. I am not an expert on world history from the beginning of time until 1500. (Is anyone?) I love it when students share what they know and I want them to explore the things that interest them.
I only react in strong ways when students disrespect each other.
Don’t do it. Just, don’t do it
And last but not least, although I’ve taught for going on 15 years, I am always willing to try new things.
My daughter teaches as well and we often talk about new ways to do things. She works in the communications department and her insights have greatly changed the way in which I approach power points, time in class and feedback.
These are things I know about myself as a teacher. But interestingly, these are also the ways I am as a person. My “authentic” voice as a teacher is the same as my “authentic” voice as a person. I am me and cannot be anyone else. I may be a favorite teacher for one student and not for another… or maybe for no one and that is fine.
I guess that I most closely identify with the reading by Sarah Deel when she comes to the realization of teaching as herself. I really don’t think I could have taught for as long as I have as “someone else.” I do think the outline by Professor Fowler, however, is a very good look into how you, as your authentic self, become a teacher. I also believe that despite a post that may seem status-quo, I am a Yearner. I taught my children to read because I didn’t trust School to do it. I also tried to incorporate learning beyond a classroom for my children, whether it was technology or milking goats. And as I said earlier, I believe that technology is important and we need to move ahead in incorporating it in our classrooms, technology however, can’t replace the teacher who answers the seemingly stupid question.
Everyone is different. No two teachers are exactly same. Anyone embarking on the journey of finding an authentic voice as a teacher will, in my opinion, find it in who they are as people. And Students will benefit from the myriad of personalities, skills, voices that we all bring to the classroom.