To teach or not to teach?

This is the debate that I am currently facing. There are various reasons why I want to pursue my PhD but I am not sure teaching is one of them.

Through my previous GA I was exposed to co-teaching with my co-worker/classmate also in my Higher Ed program. This experience made me realized how much I disliked grading. I had a hard time balancing what I felt was too lenient or too strict. Similarly to this meme… I feel that I have patience but not when students are asking questions twice because they weren’t paying attention. So here I am in this dilemma of whether I want to teach or not. I actually think I could be a decent professor because Sarah E Deel and Professor Fowler both mentioned in their articles various  teaching strategies that I saw myself doing in my first class already. Some of these were being authentic, engaging, and prepared. But that’s just me assuming because  who knows since I didn’t make it to I checked haha.

On the other hand in the article Finding my teaching voice, this statement was brought up “I got the sense that it didn’t matter much; it was how you paid your bills while you were conducting research”. I think this is something that I think a lot of graduate students can relate and is pivotal to some of the teaching issues we face today. This is how many future professors tend to begin their graduate school journey. Many receive no guidance to the first time they have to teach, it is usually covering for a professor that can’t make it for a class that day. At Virginia Tech, I have seen more intentional training for GTAs but I am not sure this was the case for my undergraduate institutions. Many times if a GTA covered a lectured for a professor I could see their lack of guidance. As an undergraduate student I would be annoyed and complained to peers etc.. but now as a graduate student I have seen how many times it is not their fault and say “you can’t blame them.. Is not their fault”.

Lastly, Professor Fowler in his article The Authentic Teaching Self and Communication Skills brings this up “ Being “real” and “present” in the classroom does not mean you erase all boundaries; Paulo Freire argues that teaching is always directive—as the teacher you are never on a completely equal level with the students, even as you recognize that your students can be both learners/teachers in various moments, and even as your recognize that you can be a teacher/learner”. The caught my attention as I am a Freire fan. If you haven’t read his Pedagogy of the Oppressed I would definitely recommend it! I truly agree with this because when you get that teaching title it will separate you from your students but it does not mean that the classroom and learning experience can’t be a dialogue between the two. As I continue to have this dilemma whether or not I go into Academia I do have a quote that pulls me towards teaching “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world” -Nelson Mandela

Staying critical on the positionalities and privilege of authors

Reflecting on some of this week’s readings, I have a couple of reactions. One that stood out to me was the article by Mark C. Carnes. This article begins with the statement from Obama and his idea of a “college-access and completion fund”. The author agrees that money would help but states that it is not enough. He reinforces this statement by quoting a report that states “one-third of students from even privileged socioeconomic backgrounds—top half of the income distribution, at least one parent with a college degree—fail to graduate. Such students quit not because they lack funds, but because they lack motivation and interest”. My first reaction to this statement was “of course bratty rich/privileged students *rolls eyes*”. I do believe that higher education is not for everyone but when I think of students that lack motivation and come from privileged backgrounds I tend to be a bit more judgemental that they just never had real struggles to overcome… Of course, I understand this is not the case for everyone. I have my own biases that it is their privilege that they have that leads to some of these students to lack motivation and interest. Since they have the opportunity, support and ability to achieve an education, they may take it for granted. On the contrary someone that may not have the financial opportunities or a parent has gone to college, may have a complete different appreciation, motivation and interest in their education. Also, their pressure to persist in school is much more different and may only be able to pay those student loans once they earned their degree. Therefore, some of these students that quit not because of the lack of funds, probably have some financial security from their parents to not necessarily feel that need to finish and they can potentially have other opportunities. Overall, I think this statement shows that the author may have some privileges in regards to financial resources that has led him to write this but as to many things there is the other side that I think was left out. In this case low income students and their motivation and interest on their education goes beyond just the academics but an opportunity to a better life.

Using “I” and the vulnerability of opening up

This is the dilemma that this student, Alexandra Gold, a Ph.D. candidate in English Literature at Boston University discussed on her article. She brought up many interesting points that I agreed with, such as this statement:  

I know you’ve heard a version of this stolid formulation: “This paper will analyze”; “This article shows.” No expression makes me bristle quite as much. I have to fight an immediate urge to shout: THIS PAPER DIDN’T ANALYZE ANYTHING! YOU DID. Why are we so afraid to say “I”?

I think this is particularly a struggle I phase today. I have gotten so used to the formal academic writing style that blogging actually feels a bit weird sometimes. The freedom that we have in blogging is unique and awesome but takes some time to get use to. At least it did for me. Alexandra describes this as “a strange paradox of the traditional academic essay that as much as we tell students to write in their own words, we ask them to couch these words behind an inactive or tacit authorial subjectivity”.

Blogging is actually one of her suggestions of an assignment in a genre beyond the traditional academic essay. She believes we should do this at least once during the semester. I agree with this because it does truly allow us as students to connect to what we are learning and express freely our feelings and reactions to it. Blogging for other classes and now this one has definitely allowed me to feel more comfortable using “I” again and truly expressing my opinions in writing, getting creative, while connecting it to my personal experiences.

But a new dilemma I am facing now is how it can also put me in vulnerable situations by opening up. I noticed that when I get the most out of my blogs is when I am able to connect them to my personal experiences. It not only allows me to reflect on my own opinions but it also shows my readers how I came about to having those views. As a future student affairs professional,  having a public blog where my opinions are being shared, makes me a little nervous that they can one day be used against me. We have seen in other schools faculty being fired for having certain beliefs such as white supremacy and we have even seen the controversies here at VT with the GTA. Although, those are more extreme examples of beliefs, they what we are facing today. Therefore, in student affairs we are supposed to be inclusive for all students and by taking a stand on one certain side sometimes makes me worry if that it can affect my career in the future. Therefore, when it comes to blogging specially knowing how this one is very public and is tweeted. It makes me a little hesitant to truly express my opinions but at the same time I still plan to do it because I think people need to hear and learn about different perspectives. I am a first generation, from a low-income family, Latina and I am sure that my experiences and interactions with pedagogical practices growing up can be unique based on my salient identities.