Here are my top three reminders I would do well to apply [to teaching] more regularly.
Teaching Tips Series Spring 2017
Really listening to my students also challenges me to see course material with new eyes—their eyes. It forces me to approach the familiar grounds of knowledge using unfamiliar pathways. At its best moments, listening to my students equalizes us as we become collaborators in the project of learning.
When I first started teaching, I would obsessively replay my mistakes, wracking my brain for ways to make up for them next time. I still do. But I also try to remember the advice I received from my first pedagogical mentors: It’s just as important to focus on what you did well so that you can keep doing it.
Last summer I was given the opportunity to teach my first college-level class: a senior-level lecture course on the history of the American Civil War and Reconstruction. I frankly wasn’t that nervous and I went into the course thinking that my job consisted of a simple two-step process where I simply downloaded information into my students’ brains and then challenged them to think critically about the past and its connection to the present.
As an undergraduate, I found it very difficult to contribute to class discussions—sometimes I was too shy to speak up, other times I simply couldn’t think of anything to say. The struggle persisted into graduate school, where I pushed myself to participate, but was still frustrated and disappointed in my performance. I suspected that my professors were too.