Of the readings for this week, I connected most with Shelli Fowler’s “The Authentic Teaching Self and Communication Skills.” As I think about her handout I really appreciated her statement that “Teaching is not all about the teacher.” I’ve said it so many times, but academics tend to have serious egos. It just seems to attract that type. I don’t mean that all academics have egos, just that it seems to be an environment that breeds that mentality. When you’re constantly pitted against each other to prove the value of your research, it’s not really surprising. For that reason, I think academics find it challenging to connect with students and meet them at their level. The first thing I do while teaching is tell the students about myself and my journey to get to that classroom and my PhD program. I explain to them that I struggled through undergrad. I did my best to stay focused and connected, but I knew that in a class of 200+ I could skip class because no one was paying attention. Today, I make it my mission to make no student feel anonymous because I know that is the first way to lose the connection. I always start the semester by explaining to them all that I don’t have all of the answers, but I will work with them to help them find the answers to their questions.
In that regard I will often call on the class to help teach one other. What makes sense to me and the way I explain something will work for me, but not necessarily to every one of my students. When I teach I aim to learn from my students how to teach. I don’t expect to walk into my classroom and have everything I say stick the first time. I really appreciated the line that you need to “be flexible and adapt your plan as you “read” the dynamic.” Not every exercise I have tried has been successful. This is where improvisation is key. Do. Not. Panic. Just go with it. Have a discussion with the students. Ask them what worked and what they are struggling with. I really believe that maintaining honest and open conversation throughout my teaching has allowed for reflection and evolution of my teaching style. I’m certain I will (and have) fail at teaching one thing or another in the future, but I look forward to the failure, because that just means there is still so much room to grow.