The question bugs me for at least two reasons: 1) I don't think my teaching is all that unique, which taps into my insecurities about being an impostor; and conversely, 2) questions like this make it super easy to dissemble answers that make me look like a better teacher than I am, compelling me be "that" knows it all. The question rankles like job interview questions where I avoid short-selling myself and overstating my skills.
There isn't anything about how I teach that is "unique" - I've seen tons of other teachers do what I do. And so much of what do, I "stole" from someone else. I'm so down with standing on other peoples' intellectual generosity. And my philosophy of teaching closely resembles what I've observed in role models. I often feel as if I'm a copy of the teachers I admire.
I know my teaching exceeds imitation. There's a stamp or flavor that makes my teaching unique. My sense of humor. My creativity The liberal use of different types of media. The focus on social justice. An emphasis on collaborate group work. A growing effort to limit direct instruction/teacher-talk (an ideal to approach). A commitment to fostering connections and community.
But I've seen community college peers and my colleagues from K-12 do all that and more. And with greater care, skill, and panache than I've yet to achieve. Oh yeah, I'm scaling that learning curve.
Perhaps what I do bring to the profession is my particular identity and the idiosyncratic path I took to become a teacher:
- I'm a child of Filipino immigrants who grew up in the SF Bay Area.
- I was a gay teenager during the Anita Bryant anti-gay era in '70s.
- I majored in Biology at San Francisco State University, hoping to please parents who wanted an MD in the family.
- I spent three semesters of my undergraduate years studying at University of San Carlos, in the island province of Cebu where my parents grew up, partially playing out my "roots" moment and partially to get out of my parents' house.
- I took a Master's degree in multicultural counseling at San Diego State University.
- I spent several years working in Los Angeles as a human relationship specialist.
- I later became a Student Affairs professional at a Cal State San Marcos where I took literature classes for fun.
- Developing a taste for literature and realizing I wasn't cut out for academic advising, I quit my job to go back to grad school.
- At University of California, Riverside, I did graduate work in American Literature with an emphasis on Minority Discourses and Asian American literature. Did everything but write the dissertation. Sigh.
- I took a job as an adjunct professor at a community college, and about ten years later, they offered me a full time position. Here I am, second semester as a full-time, tenure track professor. Woo hoo!
The angle of vision this route affords me informs my teaching. Damned if I can explicitly say how my past makes how my teaching is different how my colleagues and role models teach.
Perhaps if I could better articulate how my identity and journey led me to teaching, the better I could describe my teaching.