Rules of Teaching

Today, I start my ninth year of being a professor.  It is hard to believe that it has really been that long.  It feels like it was just yesterday when I got my PhD and thought I knew something.  Trust me that today I am no longer under such delusions.

In looking back and now moving forward, my classes look nothing like that did nine years ago. Today, they are much less, "me talk - you listen" and much more "lets explore and see what we all learn as a result."  My whole teaching philosophy has evolved over time and continues to do so.  In that vein, I thought that today, I would share my rules of teaching today with you...

  1. Start lessons with a relevant question/problem.  Set up the 'so what' so that students can understand why you are delivering the lesson.  It is about creating context in their minds.
  2. Set up the class in an explore, demonstrate and apply model.  
  3. Conversations work better than telling.  When I am told something I am more likely to forget, ignore or half understand the message.  When I gain knowledge in a conversation I tend to retain it because I had to connect the dots myself and understand the logic behind the thoughts.  Remember the key to a conversation is that it is a two way street.  You have to listen as much as you talk.
  4. Smile.  Life is so much better for yourself and your students when you engage with the materials.
  5. Be constructive.  No one likes to be told their wrong but sometimes we all need to be guided towards a better understanding of an issue.  I go in with the approach of helping students to understand where the error was made and providing tools to help them improve their performance
  6. Always treat students with the utmost respect and dignity.  It is amazing how treating people well usually turns into them treating you well.  
  7. Be open to learning and new ideas yourself.  Students have often taught me a lot to which I am eternally thankful.
  8. Always end a lesson by going back to the original question/problem which began it.  Let students see how their ability to address the question has improved.  It also allows you to guide a sense of how well you did your job.

Once again, these rules like everything else are subject to evolution and change with the times.  Good luck to all with the new school year!  May we all learn and flourish during it.