Most professors (including me:past tense) provide long descriptions about their educational theory and approaches. Instead, this section is about what I believe about learning and how we will approach the semester together. Bottom line, the following are ideas that lead my course design and instructional decisions.
I believe in order to grow as a student of life we must be willing to be out of sync or off balance with what we think we know. We must allow preconceived ideas to be proven correct or incorrect and avoid being personally offended at the challenge.
I seek to have conversations and meetings with students that are ‘fully there’, one in that I am listening and contributing. I seek to be a professor that is engaged with my audience and the topic. I strive to be committed to the moment, committed to being in class and my students at that particular place and time.
I do not believe technical skills by themselves create opportunity; opportunity must include the development of the whole person. Technical training is important, but technical training is something acquired and will always have the feel of being artificial unless one develops self awareness.
If we approach a task with the beginner’s mind, we are not afraid of being wrong. The fear of making a mistake, of risking an error, or of being told you are wrong is constantly with students and our society. The power of education really becomes understood when we leave our innate fear of being wrong behind. If our state of mind is coming from a place of fear and avoiding risk , then we will always settle for the safe solutions — the solutions already applied many times before…this approach fails at implementing the grand ideals of higher education.
I have a high level of expectation for my self and my students. Students will not be asked to do something I am not willing to do. I am honored by the presence of students who make the choice to register for my courses.
Education is a conversation, not a one way lecture. I avoid formal circumstances and standing behind podiums. Humans make emotional connections with people, not abstractions of individuals behind a podium. When possible, I hope to place my ideas in human terms. We will not agree all the time, for one purpose of education is to develop and evaluate the merits of competing arguments. Expecting agreement is a limiting factor and fails to develop personal and societal growth. Academic debate and discourse is encouraged. I expect students to challenge my thoughts, ideas and perceptions as I will theirs.
What is more important today than ever before is the ability to synthesize the facts and give them context and perspective. I am one that believes clarity and simplicity is needed in this world and is growing so rare and the only way students can develop these skills are through the classic liberal arts.
Life is short. I encourage students to avoid people who dismiss the idea of enthusiasm, or worse still, those who try to kill it - especially about educational hopes and dreams. Trying to impress others or worrying about what others may think of your enthusiasm or passion waste talent that can be directed toward personal growth.
Finally, I strive to let go of my sense of self. I am not here for me: I am here for my students and my community. I have no personal aims or cares other than to communicate my message effectively. Education is teaching and learning that happens at the same time for all involved.
I expect mutual respect in the classroom. I will model positive professional, moral and personal behavior.
We will learn together and success will be defined by developing many more questions about our topic than we initially started with.