Today was the last day of TA training. It's been a long three days.
The "capstone" experience for the training was to deliver a 15 minute lecture on a topic of our choice. I picked the evolution of virulence, targeted for a junior level evolution class.
I was nervous, because I loath public speaking. I like teaching, but I will never become faculty because I have no desire to stand in front of people and speak. Through out the training, it was stressed that this is about communication, so even if you don't want to teach the training can be applicable to your future career.
Giving a lecture will always be my last choice for communicating with people. I have tutored groups of students and I have mentored in the lab and I think I'm a pretty damn good teacher in these settings. I've been complimented a number of times by the people I have taught.
So there I was, tired, caffeine deprived, and hungry giving my talk. And then came the critique. While I did well responding to questions, apparently I come across as too casual. Too young. I use the world "cool" and "neat" when describing a Very Important Theory.
The person who gave a talk after mine was a very formal looking Economics PhD, in khakis and a navy blue polo. And after his talk several people commented on being enthusiastic about your subject, and how it helps draw students in.
I raised my hand and asked why it was enthusiasm when the other guy did it but "too young" when I did it.
Basically, I look young. I speak casually. The students will take advantage of me because they won't see me as an authority figure. I was frustrated and ready to burst into tear, wailing "that isn't fair!" so instead I dropped it so we could finally go to lunch.
Now, I have the spirit of the stairwell.
I like who I am, and I know I'm a good teacher. It's true that I am casual and it's true that I am young, but if the students think that they can get away with shit because of that, they have another thing coming.