In today's post I want to acknowledge something that I have been doing during our "Zoom Check Ins" that has forced serious reflection on an insecure tendency I have as an instructor.
To summarize, I often feel an embarrassing disconnect between the type of teacher I want to be on blogs, during keynote presentations, in conversation with colleagues, etc., and the type of teacher I naturally am.
I want to be a teacher who deeply values and implements the process of inquiry, letting students struggle confront misconceptions, and push through initial frustration. I embrace the value of this cognitively and pedagogically.
Keeping the above in mind, I am naturally a person who is deeply affected by human emotion, facial expression, tone, etc., and often find myself struggling as a teacher in the F2F environment when positioning students at the beginning of an inquiry cycle with a task that I know will be frustrating, yet will tunnel them towards the misconception I want.
During this time, I evoke silly mechanisms such as pretending to grade, leaving for a cup of tea, using the restroom, [insert other ridiculous ways of avoiding students]. I do this to avoid how watching their frustrations makes my skin curl. How insecure it makes me feel as an educator. How much I hate watching the frustrated. How it makes me contemplate silly questions such as: Do they hate me? Do they hate this class?
In short, the pedagogical technique that I have embraced more than any other, SPARKING STUDENT CURIOSITY, is something I often feel surfaces an enormous sense of Cognitive Dissonance. I believe deeply in it, but I a horrible at embracing it visually...a lot of the time.
Back to the point, while most of my colleagues are starving for student interaction, and to see their students faces, emotions, etc., I have been feeling the opposite. My oversensitivity to their emotions and facial expressions has presented an opportunity, in the online learning environment to, block that out a bit, while still making contact.
For example, just 1/2 hour ago in my Biochemistry class I was presenting a very challenging task to my students, one I normally would present and think shake a bit, perhaps leave the class while the negotiate, etc. This time, I simply minimized the Zoom screen and kept on describing the task.
I noticed myself calm and embrace the exciting intellectual nature of the material more. I, ironically, felt more present with my students, and although I could sense their struggle, not seeing their faces, but hearing their voices and them seeing my face, created a structure where the moment of inquiry felt more fluid.
I am NOT CONDONING this, more, just being honest about my own struggle with negotiating my personality in the context of my pedagogy. If anything, once again, this moment of online learning forced reflection on teaching practice.