Professor with students October 5

Why We Teach

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We’re at that time of the academic year when the daily details begin to pile up. Teach a class, grade assignments, schedule advisees, and prep for tomorrow. It may not feel like a grind just yet, but it does require lots of focused energy, which makes this a perfect time for a quick reflection on why we teach. For some, teaching is just a job; it’s a paycheck necessity. But for readers of a blog on teaching and learning, I’m pretty sure we’re in it for something more than the bucks, which tend to be pretty modest anyway.


female professor in front of small class September 12

An Introduction to Teaching through the Seasons

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It all started 56 years ago with a brown paper sack. This no-frills carrier contained a stash of glue, crayons, scissors, and strips of construction paper. These were my teaching tools. According to my mother, I carried this sack with me everywhere. Naturally drawn to showing and explaining things, I later graduated to using a small chalkboard. When our cat had kittens, they became my pupils, though admittedly they were less attentive than my stuffed animals.


word cloud August 31

Word Choice: What You Call It Matters to Teaching and Learning

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Language influences thought and action. It’s a fundamental idea in linguistics. I remember first encountering it in a class when I was assigned S.I. Hayakawa’s classic Language in Thought and Action. But it’s a principle that’s easy to forget. Here are a few examples that pertain to education, with the question being—how does what we call something affect our teaching and students’ learning?


professor with small group of students May 11

How Teaching is Like Composting

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I started composting at our summer place in 2009, and now I’m a convert. In the summer, we live on an island that’s mostly rock covered with something the locals call “organic matter.” Growing anything this far north on this soil base is challenging, but compost has made a big difference. My bleeding hearts, campanulas, delphinium, phlox, and coral bells are far more impressive than they used to be.


Newton's Cradle with red ball April 8

Start Small, Finish Big

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You’ve just returned from a Teaching Professor Conference or read of an innovative teaching strategy in a book you devoured. You desperately want to incorporate the innovations you’ve learned into your own courses, but at that exact moment, you feel your energy drain when you imagine hearing unsupportive administrators utter their stern objections “to keep things the way they are.” You pause to look around, seeing older colleagues who have more teaching years behind than ahead of them—“I tried that once . . . “—knowing that they never received the administrative nod for their innovations.



young professor in lecture hall January 18

The Rhythms of the Semester: Implications for Practice, Persona

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We recognize that in the march of the semester we begin on a different note than we end on. The early weeks hold promise and high hopes, both often curtailed when the first assignments are graded. The final weeks find us somewhere between being reluctant or relieved to see a class move on. There is an inexplicable but evident interaction between our teaching persona and the persona a class develops throughout a semester. Some structural factors influence both: among them—the type and level of a course, the discipline, the time of day, and whether the students are a cohort or a unique collection of individuals.



group of teachers and students October 5, 2015

How Do I Make Choices About Who I Am as a Teacher?

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Who are you when you teach? When asked this question, most of us immediately respond by describing our teaching approaches. We might say “I’m more of a facilitator now.” Or we might respond with something like “I am a learner-centered teacher” or “I’m more of a lab teacher than lecturer.” But consider this question in another way: What “teaching presence” or persona underlies what you do as a teacher?