Prior to college, I had zero experience teaching and conveying information to others. This changed my freshman year of undergrad where I started working as a tour guide for my university, and later became an orientation leader. Through these positions, I learned how to convey information about the university, it’s policies, campus life, etc. and I loved it! Engaging with perspective students and parents through tours and panels was so fun. Thinking back to these experiences, I think this is where I began the process (that I am still on) of finding my teaching voice.
My undergraduate institution did not have TAs, so my first experience with TAs did not occur until last fall when I became a TA for Public Speaking. Although we had a fairly intense week-long GTA training before stepping foot in the classroom, I found myself leaning on some of the skills and tactics I had learned as an OL and tour guide (checking in with your audience for understanding, adding subtle humor throughout, trying to be approachable).
While these are all skills I still use today, I’ve also spent more time reflecting on my teaching style now that I am in my third semester of doing it. I had similar feelings to Deel when it came to grading in that I felt the need to grade their fairly and uniformly. However, in my second semester I realized that by doing so I was doing my students a disservice. They are all growing and progressing as speakers at different rates, so me grading them ‘fairly’ ended up being ‘unfair’ because it didn’t acknowledge their growth. They are all completing the assigned speeches, but the approach they take to do so varies and I think it’s important to recognize that.
Establishing boundaries while remaining genuine is something that I am still working on, and probably will have to do for some time. As a young, petite female, I cannot rely on a large presence or booming voice to assert myself as a teacher. Consequently, I have to rely on skill sets I actually do have. I also have my students call me ‘Ms. B’ rather than Emma because that helps to set myself apart, while still being approachable. I am excited about growing more comfortable in the classroom over the past few semesters as it has allowed me more space to begin thinking about how to achieve a more student-centered learning approach, engage with them more, and create a better experience for all involved.