Teaching as Myself

I enjoy the freedom that acknowledging my uncool qualities carries with it; I don’t spend time or energy trying to be someone I’m not. As I express more of my individuality in the classroom, I am finding it somehow easier to see my students as individuals.

In many ways, I identify heavily with Sarah Deel, as she relates in “Finding My Teaching Voice.” I, too, went to a small liberal arts school where good teaching was heavily emphasized, where tenure hopes could fade or be made on the basis of teaching evaluations. I’ve questioned my own tone, image, style, control, and relevance in the classroom. I am mostly not cool, and I’ve given up on trying to be.

Deel’s several epiphanies reveal some problems with ideas of teaching-as-democracy. Fairness is relative; not everyone needs to be treated identically. Efforts to be fair, insofar as it means giving all students the same instructions, leaves many learners to struggle. If given the choice between treating students fairly and treating them kindly, we should remember that fairness is not always kind, but kindness is always fair. Kindness makes instructors approachable; it shows respect to all students, granting everyone identical opportunities for success.

The boundary lines I draw now have a firm footing in mutual respect between students and me. I think because I share my true self with them in class, they believe that I am genuinely trying to help them learn and respect me for that.

When teachers make efforts to teach a class as a group of individuals, it allows for a more communal atmosphere in the classroom. Teaching platitudes such as “You get out of it what you put in” apply, though not as a way to denigrate the students who appear disinterested or who don’t do all the work. Instead, the teacher, too, is held responsible, being required to put in effort to be more inclusive.

About j.d.grunert

Historian, Science and Technology Studier, Librarian, Academish
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3 Responses to Teaching as Myself

  1. Miko says:

    It is always positive to be true to oneself. Society sometimes tells us what is supposed to be cool and what not, which forces many people to lose their essence and pretend to be someone they are not. There is a lot of evidence that effective teaching is related to being comfortable in your skin and be always yourself, not matter what that is. We can always improve and be better teachers, but never giving our essence up. Students can feel when a teacher is comfortable with him or herself and it makes the learning experience so much better.

  2. Childpsychprof says:

    I also thought the Deel article was refreshing and freeing, in a sense. It is definitely challenging, though, to be comfortable enough in your own skin (and open to vulnerability!) to lead the class and not worry about what your students think. For me, it is also challenging knowing that these students will one day be my colleagues. This inspires me to try my hardest to create a positive learning community so that future citizens and “do-ers” in psychology will have the best foundation in this subject area as possible.

  3. Mohamed Abdelraheem says:

    “As I express more of my individuality in the classroom, I am finding it somehow easier to see my students as individuals.”
    I really inspired by this quote, It is away from the stereotype of the faculty instructors whose his/her head is full of knowledge but he/she has difficulty to transfer this knowledge to his/her student due this wooden facial mask he/she wear when go to the classroom

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