All of us choose our careers with a set of goals in mind. Some of these goals are material-related, intended to take care of our lifestyle desires or obligations. Other goals are people oriented, with humanistic purpose of primary importance. Teaching to me has always been and hopefully always be a people oriented profession. I believe that one must care a great deal about students to achieve excellence in our profession.
Many teachers underestimate the impact they have on students. At our best we can turn students on. Unfortunately, when we are not at our best, we can turn them off. We possess that kind of power.
As a teacher I believe that the first major component of good teaching is the quality of information presented to students. Despite the short-term appeal of an entertaining charismatic teacher, the long-term impact of a course depends on its substance. The curriculum is in a continuous state of flux; deleting, integrating, and extending course content is probably the most active dimension within instruction. I do not offer the same course twice; new information is introduced, goals are clarified, the reference list is revised, existing principles are modified by recent findings, links with surrounding disciplines are strengthened, and areas of application are extended. Good teaching calls for consistency among three basic aspects: defining the course objective, managing the classroom hour, and devising methods of testing and evaluation. These three basic aspects are a matter of fair play, and students should know from the beginning what standards are to be met by the end of the course.
Good teaching requires considerable preparation, not so much in practicing and rehearsing one’s style of presentation as in making out the substance of the talk, its pacing, the sequence of points, and their integration with the contents that preceded and those that will follow. Even so, I do not pretend to give the impression that I can control the direction of intellectual fixation for each student throughout the teaching period. I think that pacing is important because students are unlikely to understand topic B if they are still trying to understand topic A. I give them the opportunity to catch up with me.
Over the years, I have found that motivation is prerequisite to efficient learning, and good teaching transforms resistance to interest and sustains the curiosity that brought students into the course. I strongly feel that the management of motivation requires adjustments to the differences in student interest, aims and ambitions. I have tried to accomplish this by presenting the arguments, the evidence to illustrate the points being made, frequent use of examples, anecdotes, and personal speculations to stimulate students to construct their own bridges to test their ability to apply the principles to a specific event. My prime responsibility as a teacher is to help students advance from dependent memorization to independent thinking and problem solving.
Through the last 27 years of my teaching, I have found that frequent testing of students has certain advantages: it helps to sustain habits of study, it leads to a more reliable final grade, and it provides ample opportunity for me to make quantitative evaluations of student performance.
I do not pretend to be a therapist and the classroom is certainly not a clinic, but I recognize that turning to the teacher is an early option when a student wonders what went wrong and what to do about it. I have always provided sufficient time for students to hear and advise them on their anxieties, confusions, conflicts and tensions that are generated in the academic pressure chamber. Students have found me as a person whose judgment they can respect and whose confidence is trusted as counselor, mentor, and a friend. In counseling, I respect the student’s individuality, his special needs, and his right to accept or reject the information, advice, or assistance being offered.
Last, but by no means the least, is my ability to work with my colleagues. No institution can be efficient if there is a lack of common goals among the teachers. We as teachers have to recognize that if students win, we as teachers win.