Voice of Enlightenment: Reflections On My Inner Teaching Self

 

Being a subject matter expert does not guarantee that the person can successfully transfer that knowledge to someone else and is no benchmark for being a great teacher. Great teachers have the ability to impart knowledge to their students in a manner that leaves an impression on their hearts and minds for life. My goal is to get as close as possible to that ideal by inspiring and instilling in my students the urge for greatness. The techniques that can be used to reach that ideal are the ones that  I wish to discuss about through this piece. I will also reflect upon some techniques for effective teaching/learning that I have read and heard about.

 

As per my philosophy, I feel that practical life experiences are the ones that shape our minds and make us who we are. When a kid accidentally experiences an electric shock from an open socket, it is instantly registered in his/her mind to be cautious with the socket. On the other hand when a kid experiences natural beauty, its categorized as a positive experience in his/her mind. I primarily work in the field of Digital Forensics and Incident Response, focusing mainly on Mobile Device Forensics. Like many other fields of study, mine is very dynamic in terms of changing mobile technology and in my opinion the best way to educate students on it is continual practical experience. Practical encounters really tend to put the student in the driver’s seat, take control of decision making and responsibility for their decisions except for the fact that they are backed by a safety net, allowed to make mistakes and learn from them.

 

 

Besides delivering practical experiences while teaching, connecting with students is of utmost importance. To build that connection, you need to view students as unique individuals, not mere subjects. That does not mean you need to connect with your students at the personal level, but at an intellectual level where knowledge can be exchanged and learning occurs. Take a look at how Joe Ruhl in his TED talk on “Teaching Methods for Inspiring the Students of the Future” establishes a positive connection with his students. Even though the same strategies may not be applicable to college students and teachers but it definitely inspires us to establish connection with students. I also admire the fact that he acknowledges the “2 Loves” of teaching, the first one being love  for the subject that the teacher is teaching and second, the teacher’s unemotional love for their students.

 

Joe Ruhl’s TED talk on “Teaching Methods for Inspiring the Students of the Future”:

 

Teaching should be interesting but that does not warrant unprecedented “edutainment”(education+entertainment). Employing techniques for making the class interactive and the concepts more appealing are acceptable, but such techniques undermining the subject matter itself may be detrimental to a positive learning environment. Another very important aspect to consider while being interactive and entertaining is your audience. As mentioned by Dr. Homero Murzi from Virginia Tech, the contexts of your humor might be appealing to a section of the audience but alienating or offending the others. To strike a balance between teaching and entertainment is the key to effective learning.

 

Considering Sarah E. Deel’s post on Finding My Teaching Voice, I would like to comment on her thought about being a popular professor. She states, “I am no longer tempted to blur the boundaries between us, because I appreciate the embracing that sort of popularity is not the right way to be a good teacher. In fact, I am having to reevaluate my definition of “popular” as I remember other good teachers in college. These were the professors spoken of with respect in the library rather than those praised effusively at the bar.” In her opinion, blurring the boundaries between teachers and students may not be the right way to be popular and I totally get it, but in my opinion a professor can be good enough to be talked greatly about in a library as well as in a bar because he/she might appeal to different sects of students in a different manner and that is perfectly alright till the time he/she is able to contribute to effective learning.

 

Listen to the Ted talk “The One Thing All Great Teachers Do” by Nick Fuhrman:

 

Though Nick Fuhrman seems to be a fan of “edutainment”, I really like the way he summarizes the four aspects of a great teacher into the acronym “CARE” that in-turn is the fifth and the most important aspect. His question to the audiences is “Fill in The Blank: Great Teachers________________”

 

Fill In The Blank: Great Teachers __________________

 

The answer to the question is “Great Teachers Celebrate mistakes, Appreciate differences, Relay feedback, Evaluate themselves and most importantly CARE for their students”. Celebrating mistakes is one of the most important aspects of teaching since a mistake is the prelude to learning effectively, hence teachers should encourage their students to learn from their mistakes. Appreciating differences between two different classes and students within a class helps teachers to cater to the needs of the students, based on their unique requirements. Rewarding students with innovative feedback techniques is another important characteristic of a great teacher because students do appreciate being rewarded for their work. A distinguished teacher never forgets evaluating himself since learning from his mistakes is really important for teaching and effective learning. I would like to end by saying that CARE for students is a principal trait of a genuine teacher and is deeply embedded in their nature.

 

References:
1. The Authentic Teaching Self and Communication Skills, Shelli Fowler
2. Finding My Teaching Voice, Sarah E. Deel: https://tomprof.stanford.edu/posting/598
3. "Teaching Methods for Inspiring the Students of the Future", Joe Ruhl: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCFg9bcW7Bk
4. "What makes a good teacher great", Azul Terronez: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrU6YJle6Q4
5. "The One Thing All Great Teachers Do", Nick Fuhrman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwTpfVQgkU0
6. "5 Ways College Teachers Can Improve Their Instruction", Jennifer Gonzalez: https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/teaching-college/

3 Replies to “Voice of Enlightenment: Reflections On My Inner Teaching Self”

  1. Hi Sahil,

    I appreciate the balance you discuss and navigate in your blog. These ideas of practical encounters for students to be in control of their learning seems like a way for them to be engaged and interested.

    In addition to that, the need to keep students interested but recognizing that teachers are not necessarily there to entertain the students seems like a healthy boundary for the classroom.

    This way a great read to think about a teacher’s purpose and connection to students’ learning.

  2. I am delighted to read your perspective on identifying one’s teaching identity. I determined that part of the journey in discovering my teaching identity will include some amounts of self-discovery mixed with pedagogical discovery. You state the desire in “instilling in [your] students the urge for greatness,” and later you state “To build that connection, you need to view students as unique individuals, not mere subjects. That does not mean you need to connect with your students at the personal level, but at an intellectual level where knowledge can be exchanged and learning occurs.” I would say that as individuals we are multilayered, and for some, our learning experience is personal. Maybe as teachers, we need to find a balance between intellectual and personal connections understanding that our students, like ourselves, have cultural experiences that shape how they view and experience the world.

    I liked that you mentioned your experience with Digital Forensics and that students need practical application as part of their learning experience with digital forensics as technology is rapidly changing. Our understanding that some contexts require key learning techniques suggests that there is an emphasis on “effective learning” rather than teaching to please all students’ learning styles.

    To address, Deel’s discussion about her attempt at being a popular instructor, I see Deel and your perspectives. I grasp that Deel’s motives for being popular were not properly aligned with what was in the best interest of students. You explained that there is a way to be popular and that popularity can be a positive benefit to the instructor and the course. For example, when I was in undergrad, there was an Africana Studies professor and everyone who took his class felt remarkably enlightened. I would hear a buzz about how great the course was prefaced by the professor’s raw-natured teaching style and students feeling empowered.

    Again, I appreciate your discussion on this top and look forward to future blog posts.

  3. > In her opinion, blurring the boundaries between teachers and students may not be the right way to be popular and I totally get it, but in my opinion a professor can be good enough to be talked greatly about in a library as well as in a bar because he/she might appeal to different sects of students in a different manner and that is perfectly alright till the time he/she is able to contribute to effective learning.

    I believe it is possible too, but inconsistent and incredibly difficult. As teachers, we have a good number of options for building rapport with each student. But there is no reliable way to ensure that all of our students agree with one another or share the same values. So working to appeal to different students in different ways can be seen as inauthentic or unequal treatment. The path of effective learning certainly has many chances for positive interactions, but staying on that path comes with conflict sometimes too. In any case, I’m seeing a common shared focus in each of our perspectives: effective learning. Sounds like it is pretty important!

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