Passion is the Reason, Respect is the Cornerstone, Technology keeps it Fun
I teach because I am passionate about learning, and believe that the reasoned application of knowledge is power. My deepest desire is to inspire my students to feel the same way. Therefore, I want my students to evaluate, process and apply information in a logical manner.
In order to accomplish this, first and foremost is the creation of a safe and effective learning environment. The cornerstone is respect. I also believe that respect is a two-way street. I respect students by being on time, giving them my full attention, teaching for the full class period, turning off my cell phone, and responding to their questions within 48 hours. In turn, I expect students to pay thoughtful and focused attention whenever anyone is speaking, be it student or teacher, and provide cogent contributions via proper prior preparation. I create a safe learning environment by responding in an objective and thoughtful way to questions or comments. In turn, I expect students to discuss topics in a similar manner, “agreeing to disagree” when necessary.
It is through this safe learning environment that I model critical thinking by framing material using prior knowledge, logic and scientific reason. I also encourage students to question the concepts in a critical manner. I do not include a lot of text in my presentations, relying instead on images, so that through active discussion ideas can be generated and feedback provided.
I love technology and active learning. I like to make at least part of my class online and have students do activities such as: creating a web page or wiki, creating a video, answering and debating discussion questions online, even using Twitter. In class, I don’t like to lecture for more than a half-hour without having some sort of activity, such as: think-pair-share, debate an argument, a short quiz or researching and presenting information in groups (sometimes utilizing a jigsaw method). I do this not only because research shows that application of information yields the most retention, but also because I want my students to feel engaged in the process and excited about the material. In my mind, boring my students is one of the worst possible things I can do.
I do face some challenges, however. Because I am a baby boomer, I respect authority and have a very strong work ethic. I also tend to be somewhat unusually passionate and dedicated to excellence. The average millennial student may find these attitudes intimidating. I address these differences by pointing out students’ strengths and abilities, finding creative and innovative ways to teach and allowing students to be the “authority” by having them research and present on topics.
Lastly, I believe there is a definitive and firm line between the roles of instructor and therapist. Although I also work as a therapist, I am clear that my role as instructor is to facilitate learning, not counsel. Keeping boundaries in this way prevents biases from forming and allows me to maintain a safe and positive learning atmosphere.