Sarah Deel’s narrative on finding her true teaching voice provided a wonderful journey through her first experiences teaching and helped me think back to my first year (last year) and how much I have continued to adapt my own teaching style. As a public speaking teacher, we are given a weekly script and overview of each unit’s goals and objectives, but we are also given the free reign to organize the class lectures and activities to however we feel most comfortable. I can relate to Deel’s explanation of her constant search for that “favorite professor’s” vibe that seemed to rub off so positively to all students but have since realized, similar to Deel, that authenticity is created from within one’s own self-discovery and personality. I am a very extraverted and feeling-sharing type of person, so embracing a class where I disclose information and share my experiences together with my students has helped me play into my own strengths. Both of my parents are social workers and counselors, so I view teaching in a connection-oriented fashion. I try to form connections with each student early on, as I believe that once people realize similarities between one another, they are more likely to trust that person and see VALUE in the content they are teaching. Shared experiences, whether it is something as simple as growing up in a big family or working in the kitchen of a restaurant, link humans together and help bridge the divide in a place that is often thought of as two distinct worlds (teachers vs. students). I agree with Deel in that I see students as individuals who all come from different background and experiences that all can learn from public speaking on a different level. The more I connect to these students’ differences, the more credible I am as a teacher and leader in the classroom moving forward.
Deel goes on to explain her reasoning for grading students and addresses the difficult questions surrounding fairness and evaluation for students that come from such different backgrounds with the content. While Biology is much different than Public Speaking, I also find myself struggling to give consistent grades for students that have less experience public speaking than the extraordinary actors in the room that give these breathtaking narratives about their time saving a stray cat from the street and returning it home to a lonely grandmother. I am brought to tears by these dramas told by some students, but I also want to encourage the less confident speakers to also be proud of there first speech that didn’t necessarily move me as much. I feel like grades often stunt engagement and energy toward a subject– especially if a student is already dreading taking a class– and can really get in the way of forward progress. I love Homero’s approach to higher education, as he stresses that students should feel comfortable in the classroom and shouldn’t worry about “messing up.” If we all learn by “failing,” I think it is higher education’s job to let students fail in order to encourage improvement.
Lastly, I agree with Deel in that finding your teaching voice is a constant journey. While I am still a very inexperienced teacher, only going on my second year in the classroom, I find myself connecting the lessons to real-world situations and using past speeches to explain my content much more clearly now. It is so refreshing to prepare content and choose examples based on the type of students in the class for the day without having to worry so much about remembering what to say from being a first year teacher. While I do use humor and very goofy jokes throughout my class, I try to rely on the expressions and engagement from students to help me know when to cut if off or use it to my advantage. I like Homero’s idea of a teaching journal, and I will continue to reflect on my positive and more “humbling” experiences over this year.