Discovering my teaching self

I discovered early on that teaching is by far the most enjoyable activity for me. My favorite game was to gather children the same age and play the role of their teacher. I was lucky to have a younger sister helping me quench my thirst for teaching! I feel my sister’s ability to write with both hands has to do with my effort to teach her to write with her left hand. My poor sister had to imitate me while she was actually right-handed! So, it goes without saying that my dream future job involves some level of teaching.

From college to Ph.D., I eventually realized that the way professors are evaluated does not do teaching justice. More often than not, teaching is not the priority as professors are mostly assessed based on their research outcome and the amount of funding they can attract. With so many responsibilities a professor has, something has got to give. That is the quality of teaching in most cases. Many copy the same class they have been a student of, or choose a style that keeps the effort from their side at a bare minimum.

Finding your teaching style is time-consuming. But I cannot bring myself to copy others in this matter. I like to set the tone early on that learning and progress are my class’s highest goals. Students come from many different backgrounds and levels of self-confidence. I enjoy giving back their lost self-confidence by acknowledging their good qualities and their efforts. From making complex concepts easy to understand to creating a safe environment for questions and mistakes, I want my students not to worry as much about their grades and instead focus on the actual learning.

There are still challenges I am facing in teaching. I have realized that I move forward too fast. Teaching the undergraduate engineering economy course last summer, my greatest challenge was to fully use class time. I eventually learned how to expand on the material to bring the concepts home and give students a chance to think about them on their own using class exercises.

In summary, I want to be an approachable, flexible, and appreciative teacher. I want to treat my students as individuals and not just a pair of ears. By remembering my students’ names, giving them second chances, and accommodating their special needs, while maintaining my authority, I want to go above and beyond most other teachers my students have encountered.

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5 Responses to Discovering my teaching self

  1. kawthar says:

    Thank you Maftouni for sharing your experience of teaching your sister and your passion for it. first, the choice of Ross from friends is brilliant it has put a smile on my face and forced me to read your blog, saying that, I am delighted to have read it. I agree with you on the way they evaluate professors doesn’t give the right insight of what happens really in class. Some relays as you said on the amount of research conducted or amount of funding. however, what doesn’t evaluate the amount of learning this professor has contributed in or if he did the work or used his students to do such? I give you examples from my time teaching, while I got a high evaluation scores compared to other colleagues, some forced student to give hight evaluation scores to not affect their grades in the future, therefore, causing false results. and that can not be proved. in the recent time of online learning and Zoom session, all can be documented and recorded and can be taken as measures of what an effective learning strategy has been taken.

    • maftouni says:

      I appreciate your comment Kawthar. I am a fan of Friends and I also read a lot of Medium articles and I have seen their use of gif is very effective and I wanted to imitate them :)) Glad you liked it! You are right! The proper way of evaluating teaching can be a research topic in itself.

  2. chrisclements says:

    First of the gif from ‘Friends’ is awesome and really sets off this post, I think its great. I also wanted to comment on your point of the way that professors are evaluated. I think it does a disservice to the students when professors are evaluated more on their research than their teaching skill. I think you are exactly right when professors are evaluated in this way that the teaching side of the job suffers. If not suffer then at the least is not improved. How can this possibly be good for the students, especially when higher learning is portrayed as just that, higher learning. With professors not focused on teaching and therefore not focused on their own students, how can students learn. It is a slippery slope when professors start being evaluated by citations and funding and not their teaching abilities. I just wanted to add one more point to the evaluation process and that is that a lot of professors teach in order to get a good evaluation from their students and not to share their knowledge. I feel that this is also a hole in the way that professors are evaluated and needs to be looked at as well in the higher education system.

    • maftouni says:

      Thanks a lot, I am glad you liked it :)) I am a Friends fan, and this is one of the funny episodes I can watch every night.
      That is true. It is impossible to force professors to do the right thing purely by the fear of evaluation. Choosing the right way of motivating professors to be better teachers can be tricky and can backfire (like forcing students to give good evaluations or be so lenient just for the sake of satisfying the students to provide good comments).

  3. Jonilda says:

    Hi Maftouni,
    I enjoyed learning about your teaching approach and the perspective you have on the importance, and the techniques of teaching. I also think that teaching should have more weight on the evaluation process of the professor. In research-oriented universities, the promotion of professors is based on the publications and grants when applicable. However, teaching can be average and they will still be promoted. I think it’s time for prioritizing teaching when the skillset of students in 21st century has changed and professors are a great force to take the next generations there.

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