Humility, Caring, and Cheerleading (Teaching Tips Series)

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New to our spring series on teaching tips, a post by Beth Madison. Beth’s other writing at the blog has been widely appreciated. Check it out here!

Colossians 4:6 (ICB) When you talk, you should always be kind and wise. Then you will be able to answer everyone in the way you should.

  1. Practice humility—Hubris was/is my greatest enemy in teaching. Even after 20+ years in teaching, I still struggle daily with pride which is my greatest barrier to effectively reaching my students to instill in them a passion for science and especially, a passion for Christ. Each person is created by God, for God—including those students (or colleagues) who are cocky, uncaring, and rude. Giving grace, giving patience, giving charity in response to disrespect is a daily opportunity to give the gift of humility which Christ gave for me (see Philippians 2:6-11).
  1. “People know how much you care but don’t care how much you know”—My father, a professor for 35 years, had this quote posted in his office as a reminder of what’s really important in teaching. I’ve adopted it as my primary teaching philosophy as well. I can be a fire hydrant of knowledge or I can be a drink of life-giving water to my students depending on whether or not I consciously choose what is best for them or what sounds good. My students know I care deeply for them and they respond (usually) with wanting to care for science and Christ as well. They then convey their care for science and/or Christ to others in their world in an ever widening sphere of influence.
  1. Be a cheerleader—Both my traditional undergraduates and my adult learner students need me to believe in them to help conquer their fears of science and school. They need me to stand alongside them and be for them. I might be the only person they encounter today that notices their efforts in solving an equation; asks about their families or other classes; compliments a new haircut; and/or gives them a hug. The little things really do mean a lot (as evidenced in years of feedback from student evaluations).

Believe it or not, these principles are essential for good relations with my colleagues as well—we are all students in some sense of the word.

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Beth Madison

Beth Madison holds a PhD in soil microbiology from Kansas State University, and an MS in agronomy from the University of Kentucky. She completed her undergraduate work in plant and soil science at the University of Tennessee. Beth has been teaching at the university level for nearly 22 years. She served as assistant professor at Western Kentucky University before "retiring" to be a stay-at-home mom for nearly 10 years while adjunct teaching at Waycross College (University of Georgia system) and then at Union University. When her youngest son began school, she returned to full-time teaching as an assistant professor at Union University. Beth has been married for 25 years to an awesome and selflessly giving man who loves God and His creation deeply as a professor of biology, also at Union University. Their favorite activities include being outside in the woods or on the water almost any time of the year, and visiting with friends while eating good food.

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