The Courage to Teach

This week’s reading came from chapter one in the book The Courage to Teach. The chapter was entitled “The Heart of the Teacher: Identity and Integrity in Teaching.” The chapter’s primary focus was on the fact that technique alone does not make a good teacher. Factors like integrity and the identity of the teacher help to promote good teachers. For the author those two factors appear to be some of the most important.

In reading this chapter, I found myself once again looking at myself internally. The chapter touched on one of my biggest fears about teaching: Teaching is all based on technique and if you do not have that foundation then you will be doomed in the classroom. This idea formed throughout my K-12 school years as I watched my former teachers use various techniques that they had learned to teach us the information we needed to know. Upon entering college, my eyes were opened when I meet many professors who had no formalized training in teaching but bravely went into the classroom each day. In those early days, as I sat in these classes my fears were reconfirmed that good teachers were only those who were trained in the techniques. Luckily, this perception changed as a moved into my upper level major classes. I began to see that years of experience, the level of comfort in the subject area, and a natural affinity to teaching also factored into the formula, along with technique, to make a good teacher. My fear however remained. I realized that I could attained the first two points, but the third was very elusive and something that was very personally internal.

Today I have been put in many situations where I have had to over come my fear of not being a good teacher. I have conducted classes where I have been very well paired, not prepared at all, and gone into classrooms on a wing and a prayer hoping for the best. In reading this chapter, I found myself confronting that old fear that I thought I had mastered. The premise of the argument I had encountered before listening to other teachers, however; the chapter had a profound effect on me especially the section that talked about learning to listen to ourselves internally. This was something that I had never truly done and I began to equate that with the realization that I did not trust myself in the classroom. I realized that I believed that without a formal technique to guide me that I would not be a good and effective teacher. This internal reflection also made me reevaluate my past teaching moments in a new light as well and I came to realize that what the author was arguing for was in many ways absolutely true. I began to remember classes where I was the student and the class was strictly driven by technique. I also remembered classes where all three aspects of technique, content, and the identity were balanced. These were my favorite and most effective classes.

From all this internal reflection, I came to the conclusion that I have many times before when I have thought about teaching: it is a balancing game! A balance of technique, knowledge, and personality rolled into a consumable form for students to digest makes, what I believe to be, one of the best teaching environments for students to learn.

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