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A Directionless Teaching Philosophy Zero Draft Freewriting Thing

  • Students will respect you as a teacher if you:
    • Know your stuff. Thoroughly. Students respect expertise.
    • Challenge them, but not impossibly so. They’ll live up to your high expectations of them provided they’re within reach.
    • Respect them and treat them with dignity and honesty. This means treating them like adults and being able to provide reasons for your decisions. Never do anything that you can’t provide a good reason for.
  • Students want good teachers, not friends –– they’ve already got plenty of those already.
  • They’ll be more willing to invest their time in the class if they see that you have done the same.
  • Be micro-specific in your syllabus. If there’s a gray area you’ll find yourself constantly negotiating the particulars. It’s much easier for you to get things to go your way if you set everything down in writing at the start.
  • Oversharing is a big mistake but the occasional slice of emotion, personal history, etc, judiciously revealed, can do wonders in building a positive relationship with your students.
  • When it comes to classroom discussion know when something is a matter of opinion and when it’s a matter of fact. Make the distinction clear.
  • There’s nothing more frustrating to a student than playing the mind-reading game. Avoid it where possible. Or, if you know you want to drive discussion somewhere specific at least try to be upfront about it.
  • Ask your students to fill out evaluations at the start of a class session rather than the end. That way they won’t rush to get through them. Explain what evals mean to you and to the school
  • Try to inject a little variety into the classroom routine whenever possible. It helps to maintain focus.
  • Try to ensure that assignments have a justification apart from being mere busywork. Ideally, they should build in a logical sort of way throughout the semester and prepare students for related activities outside of or after the semester.
  • Nobody wants to feel that they are wasting their time. Make sure that everyone feels their time, money, and energy have been well-spent.
  • Not all reading is created equal: some things will take longer to read than others and some things will generate more discussion than others. Literature tends to read quicker and lead to more passionate discussion whereas scholarly writing is a slower read and requires a more structured discussion.
  • It is better to assign a little reading and see that it is thoroughly understood than to assign a lot of reading that will be half-digested.
  • About three to five students seems to be optimal for encouraging discussion. It is sometimes useful in large discussion sections to subdivide students into smaller groups and have each group report its findings to the others.
  • Students will tend to more naturally fall into discussion if they are seated near to one another and can see most of their classmates without turning their heads or sitting uncomfortably. For this reason it is better in a discussion-based class to seat students in a circle or semicircle rather than rows.
  • It’s easier to keep a high energy level if you teach on your feet.
  • It’s a good idea to dress very professionally for teaching, especially at the start of a semester. Students will associate this sort of self-presentation with authority.
  • Give up on making everyone happy all the time. I always want everyone to be my friend but there will always come a time where your teaching duties clash with your desire to sew good cheer. If you’re a good teacher first you might become a friend later. If you try to be liked instead of being a good teacher you can never win. You’ll lose your students’ respect and they won’t want you as a teacher or a friend. You’ll be nothing.
  • Distribute treats––e.g., holding class outside, letting everyone go five minutes early––sparingly, and when you do try to give the impression that you’re responding to the tenor of the class. You don’t want to seem like a pushover but you don’t want to be inflexible. Giving out big payoffs rarely (like a slot machine) is a good way to get people hooked.


By the way, I found this quite useful. Thanks.
Happy to hear it! :-)

May 2012

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