Of Learning And Teaching

By | June 5, 2010

I am not the best teacher, yet I am not the worst. And I don’t consider myself just somewhere in between either. That would mean settling for mediocrity and teaching should be anything but. Life should be anything but, really. Another time for this topic perhaps. I am better at teaching than I was a week ago, and I know I have inspired people along the way too.

I learn when I teach  and I love it. But it is, by all means, challenging. If one puts his/her heart into it, that is. I am trying to not just teach notions and concepts, I am trying to inspire students to look beyond definitions, marks and evaluations and see where their learning fits into the big picture. Because that’s the starting point, in a sense. Seeing and being inspired by where you want to get. I teach life sciences, which I consider fascinating. I do not go entirely by memorizing or by asking students to memorize everything. I go by understanding how it all fits together and playing with what I know and with what I don’t know while trying to figure out answers to those nagging questions I have about the living world. And there are many questions, and many more keep popping up. Memorizing everything and classifying that information would take time away from understanding it.
Some students get scared when I paint the big picture for them. Describing the components of a cell  is trivial, I believe, anyone can pick up a textbook and do it. Understanding how they all work together to keep me and you and the rest of the world alive is where learning meets curiosity, and from there fascination just flows freely. That’s where the real learning begins. But the complexity of the big picture is too much, some students would say. Some will decline to come close if it’s not part of the testing material. That alone is a sad, bone-crushing sad reality. Learning should go beyond marks, and while we need some method of evaluating, that method should not overshadow the leaning process but encourage it somehow.

It is the simple steps that build that complexity, I tell my students, and we are all learners, playing with concepts, definitions and hopefully having the courage and desire to put them upside down and crookedly and spin them too in order to understand why they make the world go round the way they do.

I will not give up trying to inspire students to see beyond the boundaries of class notes, marks and standardized evaluations. And that will make my teaching both humbling and uplifting. And I will not be the best of teachers and I will not the worst, just like I won’t just be anywhere in between either. But I will for sure be better at it then I was two days ago. And even better at understanding the big picture and why the world goes round the way it does. 
 

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