Teaching and learning is a process in which often difficult and unfamiliar subject content is made more meaningful by effective communication. In biochemistry, providing everyday real-life examples makes learning much more meaningful and fun. In the classroom setting or with one-to-one teaching, I consider myself a facilitator of learning and often allow students to take the center stage. Listening to students' comments and questions is something I consider essential in my teaching practice. I promote critical thinking and expect students to become skillful listeners. As an effective teacher, it is imperative that I maintain a welcoming atmosphere in the classroom by getting to know my students as individuals as well as a class.
I am always pumped up when teaching organic chemistry. The topic is one of my life's passions, and I do my best of pass this love onto my students. Yet, the teaching of this course must be mixed with understanding and compassion, because the topic is very challenging for most students. Thus, when students learn to love a topic as difficult as organic chemistry, I feel I have done my job well.
My teaching philosophy hinges on the fact that we are living in a period of rapid changes. As a result, it is more important than ever to convince students that expanding and deepening our base of knowledge is a worthwhile endeavor. I am privileged to teach and to guide my students to learn the subject of Physics, which is the basis for modern science. As an educator, I always try to turn my students' minds on by using the inquiry approach to learning. To see gains in their understanding these are the most rewarding moments of my career. Students demand respect, enthusiasm and excitement inside and outside of the classroom. I am always ready to support and provide for them.
My job is to help students develop the background and the tools to examine the historical and cultural issues present in the works of art we study, and then to take those skills and apply them to the world around them. Sometimes this journey takes us around the world and sometimes down the highway to a museum. In the end, I will have succeeded when my students understand that the world is much bigger than they imagined and that they have all they need to walk fearlessly into it and to make their own contribution.
Whatever the vehicle or mode of presentation one uses, to enter a classroom means to intend to be the most challenging, the most fair, and the most rewarding teacher students will have at this institution or any institution. Teaching means to stimulate student imagination and creativity, to cultivate powerful standards, to engender a profound sense of self and to nurture a deep and enduring ethicality.
My objective when teaching is simply to ignite in my students the same awe and wonder and curiosity about the Earth that always grabs me. I just try to get them fired up so they can't wait to read the next chapter, can't wait to get their hands on the microscopes and mass spectrometers, can't wait to see the rocks as they really are out in the field, can't wait to figure it out for themselves. That's how the real learning happens.
My teaching philosophy is that everyone is a teacher, every individual has unique gifts and talents, experiences and perceptions from which others can benefit and learn. I want my students to believe they have much to offer. If at the end of the semester they do believe that, I feel I have done my job effectively. I want my students to be able to describe Modernism or define montage, of course; but, more importantly, I want them to explore life, literature and culture with great passion, commitment and care.
If life can be analogized to a journey by foot and if, in this analogy, a backpack represents the receptacle for the necessities of that journey, I view my role as teacher as helping students learn to pack. I don't do the packing nor even do I make the decisions of what to pack -- a hiker must take those responsibilities. Yet, as a person who has both hiked and studied hiking, I have advice on the packing. Generally my advice is "travel light."
Architecture students bring enthusiasm, eagerness and pure joy of exploration to their work as designers. I try to capture this energy and desire as I help each student develop the ability to work independently and with sustained interest. When they do these together, while finding genuine pleasure in their work, I feel I have been successful in laying the groundwork for a life-long journey of discovery.
Never forget what it was like to be a student -- to struggle with a concept, and to be enlightened by someone who truly cared that you understood. If you've forgotten what it was like, then find a way to be a student again and rediscover why you chose to become an educator in the first place.
As teachers, we are first and foremost facilitators. The hand of the acting teacher should be invisible. We must guide our students to embrace their own unique abilities and to express their individual artistic visions. Our job is never to recreate in our own image but to enable everyone in the artistic community to become the best they can be.
I view my role as a teacher as a quilt maker. Students come into my classes or my office hoping to acquire the fabric and skills to add to the patchwork of their lives. As a teacher I want to encourage them to keep adding patchwork not just in my class, but in the rest of their lives.
From undergraduate-level teaching to one-on-one graduate student direction, my mantra remains constant: "promote student learning with understanding. At each stage, I attempt to facilitate each learner's ability to teach himself or herself and connect meaning to their learning. In turn, my affirmation as a teacher comes from seeing my students take ownership of their learning and communicate mathematics with integrity and confidence.
A good class is like a good conversation: it involves an exchange. And the instructor has to make the first move. I can't expect students to be interested in my world until I have traveled to theirs. When the starting point of our journey together is where they happen to be at the start of the term, we are much more likely to reach our common destination and have an exciting time getting there.
I teach topics which many consider to be very complicated. I believe that anyone can teach a complicated topic so that it is difficult to understand. My goal is to make complicated processes and topics logical, clear and interesting. I use a lot of examples, calling on the class to suggest details. On those days when I successfully make a complicated topic or process clear to my students, I feel that I can call myself an educator.
As an educator, I feel I have an obligation to demand of my students to do more than memorize facts and to do more than passively observe life. Instead, I want them to synthesize, utilize and apply information; and I want them to harness internal and external resources to actively engage in their development. I strongly believe that if I help students develop a way of thinking rather than enforce retrieval of memorized facts, and if I help students empower themselves, I therefore provide them with tools to be used in their coursework and any other aspect of their life, thus contributing to their "overall" success.
My goal in teaching is to encourage students to think critically, to be able to see connections between theory and the world, to provide them with a range of new opportunities, and to bring energy to the "dismal science." It is exciting to see the students' perspectives evolve over the course of their education as they begin to strive for goals they could not even imagine possible when they first entered my classroom. The ultimate reward is when they return to tell you about all they have accomplished and what they plan to do in the future. We as a profession are changing the world one student at a time.
When I study and teach about the past and what I impart to my students is the power of one. Mine is a belief that the only way to make change in the past or in the present is through a collection of individual efforts. History does not repeat itself. The context is always different and the players always unique. There are universals that provide lessons, but there is enough uniqueness to allow for individual initiative to bring about creative solutions. We can learn from this dynamic and in my classroom we do.
Students graduate from our program mindful that they still have much to learn, but they are encouraged by their competence as new teachers, and they are eager to affect the lives of the children placed in their charge. They want to change the world. It is a high privilege and a distinct honor for me to help prepare them for the teaching profession.
I believe teaching students critical thinking skills is paramount to a university education. By learning to think critically, students will be able to continue to learn outside of the classroom and will become better consumers of what they read and hear. It is exciting to see students challenge one another and critically examine their knowledge within the university setting.
My philosophy of teaching is to be personally supportive yet intellectually demanding of students. I believe this philosophy of teaching is equally applicable from pre-school through doctoral programs, although the style of personal support and the level of intellectual challenge change at different points in the educational process. In my teaching, I set high intellectual standards but try to help students see they are attainable. Class time is thinking time. My decisions about what to teach and how to teach it every day are guided by this thought. In my view, thinking deeply is intrinsically fun or exciting to the educated person. So, if class time is thinking time, then class time is fun time, excited time.
Learning should be great fun but it should also be difficult enough to be compelling. At the end of the day, the students need to have the sense that they have mastered something worth mastering; a sense of "owning" the material and of being able to use it in some way that matters.
My best tool as a teacher is my own enthusiasm. I try to make each student feel as if we are participating together in a journey of discovery, to make each moment of learning fresh and original.
As I grew up on a farm in southern Iowa, I've always remembered my father, Grant, often quoting Will Rogers, a social commentator and entertainer well known during the early 1900s. One of Will Rogers's most famous lines, "I have never yet met a man that I didn't like". As I write about my teaching, I can honestly say that "I've never met a student I didn't like". Reflecting on one's role as an educator produces a great sense of pride. What an honor to be directly involved with a significant support mechanism for our society --Higher Education. The provision of an effective and efficient higher education provides a greater chance for upward socio-economic progress for our students, our local communities and our global community.
Teacher education works best when we work side by side with our students in schools. Sitting beside them as they read and write with children, we are better able to understand, support, and grow their teaching.
My goal as a teacher is not to show students how much I know. Instead, it is to help them learn what they need to know in order to achieve their personal and professional goals.
Teachability is perhaps the most important criterion of the success of academic research. If we can't teach what we do we have failed as teachers and researchers. And, to teach we are forced to abstract principles from a mass of details, which is often the ultimate goal of research.
Teaching is more than the dispensation of technical matter, facts, graphs and equations; it is even more than the practical applications of theory. It is the ability to share knowledge completely and thoroughly in a supportive environment, to instill a love of learning and inspire/challenge the students to engage in lifelong learning.
The best teaching always entails more than the knowledge of facts, it engages everyone involved in the process of discovery and reasoning through challenges. These are immensely valuable elements of strong individual character and human progress which can produce leadership in science, industry, art and society. Those qualities also serve as a shield against the fearful and violent forces that would limit the very freedom to pursue and share knowledge. The best teaching passes on what is honorable in us to both equip and inspire future generations.
I believe that as a teacher I have a great opportunity -- indeed a responsibility -- to positively influence my students' lives. Good teaching is far more than the effective transfer of knowledge from instructor to student. It is, more importantly, a transformative social process. By connecting with students during the learning process a teacher has the potential to inspire, spark imagination, illustrate patterns of critical thinking and build their self-confidence. My "secret" to motivating students has been to constantly search for ways to try to get them to see some subject matter that is of interest to me as also being of relevance to them.
How far? How many? Is it five or a billion, a billion infinities, an infinite time? As these questions direct thoughts into the gathering storm, patterns and structures take shape in the confusion of the night. A bolt of lightning illuminates the tree by the pathway, and the image remains clearly branded in the mind as darkness returns, giving way to a new morning of understanding.
Teaching is learning. I have been learning throughout my teaching career. This ongoing learning is reflected in the evolution of my teaching philosophy: beginning with teaching as inspiring during early years of my career, transforming to teaching as a dialogue in mid career, and further to teaching as engineering of student success during last 10 years of my tenure at UT El Paso.
I tell students that there are, at base, only two questions: "What is?" and "What if?" We must understand the world as we find it, and we must imagine what we might make of it. Literature is the record of both efforts, and as a teacher I have the privilege of introducing students to diverse worlds and encouraging them to take up residence.
The most gratifying aspect of teaching is to see a student take the material beyond the parameters of the classroom.
It begins by being clear about things we already know. Then. it moves to identifying and courageously embracing difficulties, tensions, contradictions among those things. Next comes the conscious use of carefully developed and soundly employed reasoning skills to analyze those difficulties. The result is learning something.
I enjoy the stimulation of teaching of science, especially the task of taking a conceptually important, but difficult, notion and rendering the essence of it understandable to a non-expert. Teaching courses to non-science majors on such topics as black holes, neutron stars and supernovae has given me ample opportunity to sharpen my skills in this regard. In the process, I try to treat each student as an individual, with their own strengths with which to work, weaknesses to overcome, and differences to be cherished.
Teaching, at its core, is the ability to tap into the students' inquisitive nature, interests, background and creativity. Hands-on instruction, the Socratic method, active learning and a dynamic learning environment set the stage for this student-instructor relationship. Our desire, then, is not to teach students just an identified set of fundamental knowledge, but to light the flame for the students to be invigorated, to teach themselves, to innovate, and to be the next generation of entrepreneurs.