Being in Three Places at Once

This fall I have the opportunity to learn in three very different settings.  In the first setting, I am co-instructing (as I mentioned in a previous post) an undergraduate course called Emerging Leaders.  The second setting, I am the only leadership studies doctoral student in a class with higher education leadership masters students called Making Meaning of the College Experience. The third setting is with my fellow doctoral classmates in two research courses: Advanced Qualitative Research and Action Research.

Although its only been the first few days of each course, I already feel different in each class because of the role I play and how I choose to take up that role.  In the undergraduate class I feel like a nervous “new” teacher.  I am used to being in a more formal professor role from when I taught business courses to adult learners, but this is a discussion based co-instructor model so I have to be careful not to “lecture” but instead facilitate group learning.  Hence the nervousness.  I’m new to the social change model as well, so I really am learning along with the students. I always learn something new when teaching, but I really do feel like a bit of a newb in this case.

As for the masters class, in talking with some of my classmates they expressed their assumptions of me: that I must know “a lot” already, since I’m a doctoral student.  Rather than trying to exert authority as a phd student, I was frank about being new to higher ed leadership, and that I’m learning just like everyone else.  During class, I felt out of place, as I am not a student affairs professional. But my excitement over learning about student development is the common connection to my new classmates; one that I need to remember and tap into.  Had I allowed my insecurities to get the best of me, I could have tried to play up the doctoral aspect, but consciously chose not to as that may  impact our future classroom interactions in a negative way.

My research courses have me learning with other phd students from a variety of cohorts, several of which are close to entering their dissertation phase.  This may create a hierarchy between the students, not to mention the natural inclination for competition among graduate students–I don’t deny its existence.

So why is this combination of classes important? Because we often don’t realize what role we take up in different situations and how we exercise leadership especially when our resources vary in each situation.  With the masters class, I have to be careful not to behave in a dominating way which may silence others.  With the doctoral classes, I have to be careful not to “hang back” thinking the more “senior” students are in control. And with the undergraduates, I have to create a holding environment where the students and the co-instructors can learn together.

Talk about juggling a lot of balls in the air. But man am I excited!

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