CELT Faculty Spotlight: Meghan Gillette

Dr. Meghan Gillette, CELT Faculty Affiliate, Associate Teaching Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, has spent 12 years at Iowa State. Meghan’s advice for teaching:

When I first started teaching, I was young (I was in graduate school) and I didn’t consciously realize it at the time, but I think I was worried the students wouldn’t respect me since I was not that much older than them and hadn’t yet finished my PhD. While I was friendly, I was quite strict and stern about every little thing, even things that ultimately didn’t matter. As a result of feeling insecure, I tried to control things. I think I thought this would make them respect me but in actuality it just stressed them out. And when students are stressed out, it’s harder for them to learn, and they’re less likely to be able to achieve the expectations you’ve set and to seek help from you.

As I became more secure as an instructor (and honestly more secure with myself as a person), I became less controlling and more warm and approachable, and really focused on having high expectations about things that mattered (i.e. deadlines, attendance, working well in a team, working toward and achieving correct answers, etc.), and let go of trivial things. This attitude change was beneficial not only for students but also for myself. I gave myself more grace and enjoyed teaching more. My students more eagerly met the expectations I’d set for them in their behavior and their assignments, because the atmosphere was more relaxed and they felt supported when working on hard questions.

So, my tip would be: do a self-check for any insecurities you might be feeling about teaching, and ensure that those insecurities aren’t leading you to be overly-controlling in the classroom (which isn’t productive). If you find that they are, I suggest delving into Dr. Brene Brown’s work about vulnerability, bravery, courage, and kindness. It’s transformative!

Meghan Gillette