In reading Shelly Fowler’s piece on The Authentic Teaching Self and Communication Skills, I was presently surprised at the impact Fowler’s perspective had on me. Oftentimes, unless we are forced to stop and actually think about the authenticity that goes into teaching, we forget to actually do it. I am appreciative of this piece because of its ability to force that out of me, regardless of how elementary some of these points may have seemed (no offense to Fowler).
However, with all of that being said, the one thing that really resonated with me was the professor’s fourth point where they explain what exactly being the authentic teaching self means.
In said point, Fowler explains that, as my title suggests, “teaching is not all about the teacher; that is, teaching is not all about you.” Furthermore, the professor explains that as the teacher, you have to be present and aware of who you are in the classroom and what you are doing. However, what I think stood out most to me as a reader and teacher is the importance of taking a “step outside of yourself,” in order to be more,”attentive to the students and not make the classroom your stage with the students as a passive audience.”
As a Public Speaking TA who is in charge of roughly 80 students per semester, that final point has become by far the most important aspect of my role as the teacher.
Oftentimes I get so caught up in the ease of teaching and the relaxed nature that my role provides that I forget how difficult this course can be for people. For clarity, when I say difficult, I don’t mean long and strenuous equations that take hours to complete or full memorization of our upper respiratory system and it’s subsequent functions. What I mean by difficult is that this course is often very uncomfortable and stressful for students and even the most confident of public speakers find themselves uneasy come speech day.
Because of this, my ability to “step outside” of myself has become absolutely crucial to my students success. Furthermore, given the nature of the course and how hard it can be for students, being attentive to students has become a duty of mine, so to speak.
However, the thing about public speaking is that it lends itself to completing this fourth step. I have the flexibility to step outside of myself and be attentive to each and every student because I have to. As Fowler explains, you do have to take the specific course into consideration and I very much do that. My concern is that the completion of this step might not be the case in every course. Moreover, this might not be the case as I continue on in my career (teaching or otherwise) and that causes a bit of concern for me. Personally, I think it is imperative that we are able to disconnect from being the center of attention when it comes to teaching and I place high value on authenticity through attentiveness to every individual.
With that being said, my question is this: How am I to complete this step in the event that my career goes beyond that of teaching? If I hold this step high atop my list of “must haves” in terms of authentic teaching (or leadership), how can I ensure that I am able to properly incorporate it into every aspect of my career, or even life?
If you have gotten this far I appreciate you sticking around and very much look forward to hearing your responses!