Thursday, May 10, 2018

Enthusiasm: Teaching with My Strengths

It has recently come to my attention that my reputation precedes me: students talk about their instructors, and I am known for being an active (perhaps hyperactive) presence in the classroom. Those of you who know me well will probably not be surprised to hear this. I talk with my whole body, and it's only worse when I'm properly caffeinated.

Knowing this, I try to use it to my advantage: I know that when my own teachers were excited about the content, it piqued my interest in a different way--particularly if it was a topic that seemed like it could otherwise be dry or uninteresting.

Since my natural tendency is towards the energetic and enthusiastic, I leverage this in the classroom. Never fear a little change in vocal dynamics, gesturing, animated facial expressions, clear interest in students' contributions, and genuine enthusiasm towards the content of the lesson...that might be just what "gets" them, or at least hooks them in to following you down the path you've planned for your lesson.

And so, it is probably not surprising that students in pedagogy-oriented classes (like the ones I tend to teach) take note of this, and even comment on it.

On her final for science methods, one of my students was talking about the importance of approaching teaching with energy and enthusiasm. She went so far as to say,
 We all need some "Mulder-excitement" in our teaching!
I'm honored and touched by this sentiment. It hits home for me the importance of practicing what I preach to my students. If I seem bored with the content, how can I expect them to be excited by it? If I seem disinterested in the classroom, how can I expect them to be engaged in learning?

I've heard it said that classroom climate--like the physical climate in a particular region--is the accumulation of the daily weather, and that in the classroom, it's the teacher who creates the weather on a day-to-day basis. I'm proud that my students have caught on to this, and that they are noticing what I'm striving to model for them.
This is not to suggest that they should all act like me. This is me, teaching with my strengths. All of us have to do that. We can act like a teacher, and rely on techniques, but I believe that will only get us so far. When we learn to capitalize on our own personal strengths (e.g., enthusiasm for me!) we stop acting like the teacher, and rather become the teacher.

So, owning my own quirks and idiosyncrasies..."Mulder-excitement" seems to be a pretty apt descriptor for my teaching practice.

How would your students describe yours?

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