On my CV, there are a number of sections, but two are relevant this week – “teaching” and “service to the university.” Recently I got to thinking that really, the two ought to be combined with teaching listed under service.
All of the articles this week confirmed my hypothesis. If you had asked me a year ago to teach a class, it would have been a no-go. I didn’t know enough; I had never taught before; I wasn’t trained – all of it came down to the fact that I was scared. I was scared of what the students would think of me; scared that I wasn’t enough; scared of not having the answers; scared of all of it.
I did a lot of soul searching in the last year and have come to one conclusion: All I have to do every day is try to be of maximum service to the people with whom I meet and interact.
Once I applied that philosophy to my teaching, the “scared-ness” went away.
All I have to do is try to be of maximum service to my students at all times. That means doing the best lesson planning I can; being authentic as I engage with them in lecture; admitting I don’t have hall the answers; and being humble.
I don’t have to try and be funny, or witty, or loud, or anything else I’m not. I just have to be me. And that can mean different things on different days and weeks depending on my workload in other places.
Sarah Deel mentions in her teaching post that “I will always be thinking about how to be a better teacher, but this acceptance of my teaching voice as an extension of myself is freeing.”
So it is with me. The less concerned I am with how much my students like me, or don’t like me, the more I can focus on creating effective lessons.
I’m learning this focus also has implications for how my students react and interact with me. Teaching Women’s and Gender Studies can be a tricky subject, especially when I make a point from the outset to let students my intro class isn’t going to focus on some of their experiences (eg: the men) except incidentally. Because I’m invested in teaching my lessons and not about the personality factor, I have yet to have anyone challenge my authority or be overtly hostile when I presented an idea with which they don’t agree.
For example, I called a student out in the second week for sitting with his hands over his face like he was sleeping for half the class. The next week he apologized for being late to class because he missed the bus. Now he regularly speaks in class and is one of my better students.
He could have decided, after I called him out, to ignore me or directly challenge me. Instead, I think because that same week I also called out a woman who was using her cell phone in class (a no-no listed on the syllabus), that I wasn’t directly picking on him, but rather trying to create a conducive learning environment for everyone.
So, to the original point, teaching as service. That’s it, pretty basic. Do what I can to be of maximum service and don’t beat myself up when I don’t always get it right.