When reading Deel’s Finding My Teaching Voice, I found myself thinking a lot about what kind of teacher I wanted to be and how I wanted my students to view me. I’ve always struggled to think about how I would want to portray myself in the classroom. On the one hand, I want to be approachable and for my students to feel comfortable reaching out and interacting with me especially if the material is not clear to them and they need help. On the other hand, I worry about being too approachable and losing my sense of authority. At the same time, I have heard of some students having explicit or implicit biases and expecting more lenient or nurturing treatment from female professors. I’ve also heard about biases toward and disconnect from professors of color. Being at the intersection of these two identities, I have always been concerned about how to present myself as a professor with authority that teaches effectively to all students while being approachable and ideally well liked…..that’s all.
3 things in particular stuck out to me in Sarah Deel’s writing:
- It may create better buy-in from my students if I keep them in the loop about what pedagogical strategies I am trying to utilize. I guess I have always thought that professors crafted these strategies behind the scenes, apply them, and then cross their fingers. But it makes perfect sense to me now to share that information with my students. At least if they feel like something is foolish and they don’t see the point if I explain the potential value to them and WHY I want them to do it (or that it could help their fellow classmates) they may engage more. I also just think transparency is key, so that really hit home for me.
- There is no “right” way to teach; it may be more about how you use different strategies than which strategies you use. This thought has always been in the back of my mind, but it is reassuring to see it stated explicitly. Just because one particular teacher is extremely effective doesn’t mean if I use the same teaching strategy as they do I will magically be just as effective. It is okay for me to use another strategy that pairs better with my own personality and even what course I am teaching.
- When it comes to fairness, equality is not the same as equity. I have been discussing these terms of “equality” and “equity” with several colleagues recently, but I had never thought about the difference between these two in the context of teaching. If I want to ensure equality, I would treat all of my students identically, make sure I said the same thing to all of them, and expect equivalently excellent results from everyone. I don’t think that model works, as Deel alludes. Not all students need the same set of information or real-world context, nor do all students share the same or even overlapping learning styles. So if I want all of my students to excel to the same degree, I need a more individualistic approach that ideally addresses the specific needs of each student. That is where equitable learning comes in.
I look forward to crafting my teaching philosophy and my teaching persona based on these points and many more. It won’t be easy, but it does make me feel a little better that there is no “right” way to teach.