What kind of Teacher do You want to be: One that jumps in the pool and teaches or the One that Lectures at the student?
I recently interviewed several people for adjunct faculty positions. Usually, after I give my spiel, I ask, “What do you think about textbooks?” Most people look at me a little quizzical trying to figure out how I want them to answer. So I almost always follow it up with, “No, really, how does the textbook fit into your class? There are no right or wrong answers.” I then ask, “How do you feel about Powerpoint?” They again look at me like I am asking the all time most stupid question and giving me a look of, “doesn’t everyone use the textbook and the textbook’s Powerpoint?” To which I jump in, before they can answer, and add, “We want you to be creative. Your goal should be to get the students excited about learning- about the subject matter that you are passionate about. How exciting is it to read the textbook and then read the Powerpoint of the textbook as you recite each word as if you made it up yourself. Tell me how you make learning fun?”
If I have lost them at this point, they quickly throw out words that they have heard. This is where it gets difficult because many people in higher education know the hot button words of the day, but they do not know how to implement them. They know that students learn by doing, but they don’t have the creativity to create the doing activities. Where do I get these ideas, you ask? I would love to take the credit for all my ideas or say, “Oh, I make them up!” But, that is just not true. There are so many resources out there to teach us how to challenge our students by true hands on activities.
Where I start first is in my own law practice. I think about why I became a lawyer and all the fantasies and stereotyping and assumptions I made about being a lawyer before I was a lawyer. I ask the students what their ideas are about an exciting class or an exciting subject. Most people have a glorified idea about what lawyers do. I just play off these ideas and let them be a lawyer for a day (at least in Business Law that is the plan). I also think, “Maybe, they will go to law school later or be a paralegal. What skills can they learn to work in a law firm through this course.” I teach them those skills, as well.
I also read a lot. I read all the books on what the best teachers do, how to flip a classroom, how to do team based learning… oh and did I mention I watch others teach! I see what I want to adopt and what I say, “Wow I don’t ever want to do that!”
I also remember my favorite classes… and try to forget the most boring classes of all time!
There are so many places to learn better teaching techniques.
But, by far the best place to learn to teach is to take risks and experiment. Always be willing to admit failure and go back to another way. However, a word of caution here- you must give it time to sink or swim. Don’t just jump in prematurely and save a sinking ship. I taught all my kids to swim by staying close by, gently talking them through it, and only jumping in when they really needed the help. They all swam by age 4. You can do it and so can our faculty!
p.s. I do love textbooks, but I think they are a resource and not the source…
And I am not against the PowerPoint, as long as they are short and sweet or printed out and used as a workbook… I especially love moving animations (turn the powerpoint into a moving story)