The first thing that comes to my mind is the feeling of being more grounded and feeling more connected, not only to the college, but the students as well. I look back and realize that I have learned so much these past three years, not only about developing my own personal teaching style, but about myself in the process. To have a student stop me on your way to my office to say your class made a difference to them impacted me more as an instructor than it did when I was a practicing therapist. This year has been a journey of establishing relationships, both with colleagues as well as the students. The sharing of accomplishments, as well as the challenges, the sense of community and commonality, and the feeling of making a difference in our students lives gives me not only a sense of pride, but gratitude that I can get up every morning and teach. Year one was the year of finding the best way to do it and making it work, year two became the way of doing it more effectively, and now in year three it is being able to really appreciate why we do what we do and really understanding why we choose to teach. I often speak in my Developmental Psychology class about how the course is a journey which explores the stages of development we all experience throughout our lives. Perhaps these three years have been a journey for me in my own personal development as an instructor.
I think part of our personal development is gaining the confidence to try new things, not getting into a routine that can only bring about boredom and stagnation. I find by varying my approach in my presentations, I share in the excitement of teaching psychology. This year I have developed a confidence that has allowed me to express myself more creatively and with increased innovation, giving the students increased opportunities to fully understand the concepts. Instead of just talking about aspects of perception and how one is interconnected with the other, I have students walk outside the classroom blindfolded with a partner who guides them around the campus. Students are given the opportunity to experience what it feels like to have an important part of their perceptual sensation taken away, and how their senses compensate. Another example is, asking students to simply observe their environment for a period of time without having any interaction with it. They are challenged to create a hypothesis about behavior by simply being an observer. Students learn that based on their own subjective experiences conclusions about human behavior are usually made, which brings to light the question, can we truly be objective in our observations and how does this become problematic in studying psychology?
In my online classes, many of the assignments I give involve observations, interviewing others, taking personality inventories and assessing their own strengths; the goal being to get students involved in their own learning process and then share what they learned in an open class forum. At the end of the semester, students submit an “Insight” paper in which they describe what they discovered about human behavior, and why they feel this is a significant finding in their own lives.
The beauty of psychology is that every student has the opportunity to learn something about themselves. Everything we learn regarding any form of human behavior will always remind us of our own potential, our own abilities, as well as, our own vulnerabilities. What we observe in others, reminds us of who we are, or who we could become. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “Behavior is the mirror in which everyone shows their image”.