The following was developed for a graduate pedagogy course.
“If the structure does not permit dialogue the structure must be changed.” - Paolo Freire
The position of graduate instructor is a unique one; we maintain the role of teacher, while also positioned as students. We do have a level of authority over our students, but not as professors. Everyone brings their own individuality and set of knowledge and skills to the position; I have developed my role in the classroom as that of a quasi ‘middleperson’ straddling these interwoven, yet at times contradictory, contexts, in service of my students’ learning and allowing them to develop their roles as thinkers.
As a graduate instructor, I have the liberty of simultaneously occupying the roles of both teacher and student. It is this duality that I believe equips me with experience and skills appropriate for instructing first-year students. I am present in the class as its instructor, but maintain my role as a Master’s student. The balancing act of these two seemingly contradictory roles prevents me from losing sight of the student experience. Since I teach an introductory class, I must reconcile my desire to teach in a way that best suits me with the rigidity of a structured course. However, I allow my own role as a student to guide my teaching style. I am the sole authority in the classroom, yet I can relate to my students; I strive to serve as a translator between our text and my students, using my expanded communication studies knowledge to engage and challenge them. Additionally, I allow my students to take the lead in their learning experiences, specifically through the implementation of cogenerative dialogue. Students are not depositories for information in my class, but must actively engage with information learned from assigned readings and class discussions, and they are allowed the chance to actively serve as authorities on class concepts. There is no struggle for power between student and teacher, but a mutual relationship of respect and learning.
Questioning is another essential step in the student learning process, a notion reflected in my teaching style. As instructor, I urge students to constantly think critically about what they read and to question their motives and ideas through class discussion and written assignments. Posing questions is an invaluable tool for guiding students through any issues they might have throughout the learning process. Students who constantly question what they are reading or learning are ultimately able to engage further with class material, leading to an overall greater comprehension of information and a deeper student experience. `
Ultimately, I aim for a student-teacher relationship of mutual learning. I may be the instructor of the course, but I am in no way superior to my students. I am not the sole authority in my classroom – I learn from students as much as they do from me.