Those who write about teaching persona (the slice of our identities that constitutes the “public teaching self”) encourage us to start by reflecting on the messages we want to send to students. A dialogue with ourselves is a useful beginning, but for the last days of a semester another option might be more intriguing and revealing.
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Philosophy of Teaching
We begin each semester 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.
There is increasing awareness among K-12 educators on the importance of fostering a growth mindset. A recent survey by the Education Week Research Center (2016) indicated that 45 percent of K-12 educators were well acquainted with the concept of growth mindset, and almost all believed that nurturing a growth mindset in their students would improve learning outcomes. Although mindset is receiving a great deal of consideration in the K-12 classroom from teachers across disciplines, there has been less attention devoted to this concept on college campuses outside of departments such as psychology and education.
Have you ever become so frustrated with students and overwhelmed by your workload that you start questioning what you are doing? At times it can feel suffocating. Baruti Kafele, an educator and motivational speaker offers a perspective of being mission oriented to educators and others working with young people in our nation’s classrooms. He suggests affirming your goals and motivations to facilitate successes among students. However, in the college classroom, it is also essential that we, as faculty members, remember and affirm our purpose, acknowledge the contributions we make in students’ lives and professional pursuits, and respect the call or passion that brought each of us to the teaching profession.
A polymath is “a person of wide knowledge or learning” (Oxford Dictionary) with expertise spanning across a wide spectrum of subject areas and domains. It is expected that such expertise will help the polymath solve complex problems needing the application of transdisciplinary knowledge. Being a polymath and subscribing to the notion that people should embrace all ideas is the core around which the idea of a “Renaissance man” was constructed.
I reread Nancy Chick’s “Teaching in Times of Crisis” with depressing regularity. It’s about what to do when the horrors of the world—the mass shootings, the hurricanes, the hate marches—walk our students to class. I recommend reading the full article, which discusses practical and specific techniques in detail, but Chick also boils down her research to “acknowledge the crisis.” After neo-Nazis plastered our campus with racist recruitment posters this semester, my students echoed this take-away. As one student put it, “tell us you’re there for us, that you’re a listening ear.”
Last post on entitlement (I promise, at least for a while), but Dave Porter’s comment to the recent post on responding to entitlement identified something I’ve been thinking about but hadn’t clearly recognized—teacher entitlement. He writes that in his nearly 40 years in the classroom he’s “seen more instances of teacher ‘entitlement’ than student entitlement.” He continues, “I think clarity, mutual respect, and reciprocity have a great deal to do with the expectations teachers and students have of one another. As teachers, we create the game; it’s seems a little disingenuous to blame our students for playing it.”
Where do your new ideas about teaching and learning come from? Perhaps some come from Faculty Focus and this blog? We certainly hope so! But most college teachers don’t get instructional ideas from the literature. They get them from other teachers, usually in face-to-face or electronic exchanges. Interesting, isn’t it, how much pedagogical information is passed on and around in these very informal ways.
I like how blogging lets us stir up ideas, watch them simmer, and taste the results.
I’ll start this mix of ideas with Amy Mulnix’s insight that teachers approach learning about teaching much like students approach learning course content. Examples: students think ability matters more than effort and teachers think teaching is a gift that is given more than a skill that can and should be developed; students want easy answers and teachers want techniques that work right the first time; and both share the fear of failure. Is this a comparison from which we might learn something?