GRAD 5114

GRAD 5114 – Who are you as a Teacher?

This week in Contemporary Pedagogy, we’re taking some of the first steps in the long process of putting together a teaching statement. I, of course, have a number of years to develop my teaching philosophy yet, but I’m looking forward to the practice. I’m aware that the things I love in a class are not what many students thrive on (my ideal course as a learner is a well thought out series of lectures without powerpoints but with an associated lab for practical application), and the range of classes I could have the opportunity to teach in the future is rather vast as paleontology straddles biology and geology.

What I kept returning to while thinking about the concept of the “authentic teaching self” – as this week’s topic was titled – was balancing approachability, care for students, cultivating respect, and authority. This is a difficult thing to manage for new instructors, and even more complicated for female faculty, who are often expected to go out of their way to accommodate students and possibly still be rated by students as inferior to male colleagues independent of teaching quality.

When I taught in Tanzania, I received a deal of respect for my position as a teacher, but I did have to navigate gaining student respect as one of the few teachers who wouldn’t consider corporal punishment. Being the disciplinarian to large classes of teenagers was outside of my comfort zone, but I certainly have higher expectations of my university-level students. As a Graduate Teaching Assistant here in America, I have not yet had a student venture out of line with their expectations of me.

I hope to be able to be friendly and approachable to my students. When I present, I prefer to sit at the table with the class and encourage questions and discussion. I make a point of being very clear about what I will and won’t tolerate in my classrooms (feel free to speak up with a question if I don’t see your hand raised, and I will strictly enforce punishment for  any form of cheating, no exceptions). Thus far, this has been plenty to ensure acceptable behavior. Still, I could certainly stand to add more tools to my belt in this area, as I’m sure situations will arise in the future which require more.

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6 thoughts on “GRAD 5114 – Who are you as a Teacher?”

  1. Interesting ! As someone who is interested in pedagogy I have read and thought about many things (motivation, learning styles etc.) But I had never considered nor received training about punishment. In the back of my head, I always thought of administrating penalties as disrupting a negative behavior that is inhibiting true learning. We punish cheating, for example, in order to encourage authentic acquisition of knowledge and experience. I think it’s a good idea that you have decided to set the ground rules for your students in clear terms. That signals to them that any punishment is not retaliation but more like a call for them to re-join the leaning process.

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  2. Hi Dana,
    Your post is approaching a lot of important issues such as gender bias or having to “do more” to earn respect of your colleagues and students as you suggested. I am uncomfortable with corporal punishment also, I don’t even know how to approach that. I respect you for standing by your principles and insisting on going at it in a different way even though that was the norm in that place. Your story about teaching in Tanzania is a reminder that all education systems are different (a detail we like to forget) and our students are coming from VERY diverse backgrounds as a result. We must be careful, attentive, and professional with all students; this behavior benefits everyone.

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  3. Hi Dana, I really appreciate your enthusiasm and patience with your students. Generally, I prefer the teaching style of female faculty and according to my experience, the teaching quality of females are usually better. I think that’s because they are more friendly just like you. I don’t know about the teaching style in paleontology but in the field of social science, public debates and public speeches are almost inevitable in class. I have rarely seen faculty that is only concerned with their slides and the blackboard but never interact with students.

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  4. Hi Dana,
    Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences. Your points on “cultivating respect and authority” for new instructors are very important aspects, in my opinion, which is worth a lot of discussions in the class. Also, I appreciate your standpoint on avoiding any corporal punishment, although it was against the convention of the class setting in which you had your teaching experience.

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  5. Fellow female instructor here and I definitely agree- I have noticed students seeming to expect me to have leniency for them- the article you linked pointed out the difference between being a friend and being friendly, and I think it’s definitely a delicate line to walk. I agree with you that being friendly and approachable is important, but also cultivating respect and having students understand that you’re not going to go easy on them!

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  6. It’s interesting to think about body language and how sitting can make you more approachable. It makes you more of a facilitator of learning, instead of a domineering physical being. I like that idea!

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