'Imagine that a reporter for the Atlanta Journal & Constitution asks to interview you for a special section on effective teaching in today's college. How would you respond to the following questions?'
What is a "personal best" achievement for you as a teacher during the past two years?
Jam: For me, creating and maintaining the Freely Available Networked Game (FANG) Engine is my personal best achievement over the past two years. As I created the FANG Engine I could tell it would be useful, but didn't have any idea how difficult it would be to enhance and maintain. To-date several instructors have use the FANG Engine as an integral part of their courses, and I'm working to promote its use in several different programming courses.
Stella: I get all fuzzy and warm inside when a student takes the time to send me a card and tell me I made a difference. That happened with a former student of mine who graduated from UGA. It's a great feeling because oftentimes students may feel that way for their college profs but don't take the time to tell them.
Mark: I'm with Stella. I still have most of the thank you notes and cards I have received from students and/or parents of students. I value them much more than any other type of reinforcement.
Richard: For me, it was receiving the 'Outstanding Faculty Member' Award at the College of Saint Mary, my previous institution. This was an award that recognized teaching, and in the reception afterwards, the students who had initially nominated me for the award came up and outlined the reasons why they had nominated me. I tell you, there's just no better feeling than this; the students' sincere words made all my work worth it.
TomC: With Mark and Stella, I too have a cherished thank-you card, this one from about 10 years ago, from an adult student who praised my class as her favorite of all her classes at the college. Apart from her praise, her genuine sincerity is what touched me.
What aspect of your teaching would you never give up?
- I would never give up sitting beside students who are performing a task on the computer. This observation provides important feedback. For example, watching a student who is having trouble allows me to see where breakdowns in understanding occurred. This knowledge might cause me to modify my teaching strategy or instructions given. I can also more easily redirect students before they get too frustrated with the task. At the same time, if a student is able to easily complete an exercise, I know to make the task more challenging next time around or offer that student a leadership opportunity in the class.
Ali: I would never give up making popular culture references to make a point in class. I believe that everything, even popular culture, has educational value. These topics are relevant and important to students from this generation and it really captures their interest and gets them engaged.
Mark: The opportunity to learn and help others learn every day. Where else can you get paid to do that?
Richard: Using humour in the classroom. Its helps put the students at ease early on in the semester, and makes them more likely to express their opinions and ask questions of me later on. A big plus of this is that it makes my job that much more enjoyable.
If you could transport your classroom anywhere on the face of the earth, where would you take it? What advantages and disadvantages would this new location have for your teaching?
Ali: I would transport us into a cell within the human body. The advantages would be to help this abstract concept become more tangible. Students could see the diffusion of molecules and the organelles in action. The disadvantages to this new location would be the lack of a shrink-ray or submarine available at GGC.
What personal qualities make a great teacher?
Nannette: I believe a great teacher is
- Life-long learner
- Designer of learning experiences for students
- Curious and enthusiastic
- Respectful and humble
Stella: Makes me feel like my opinion matters
Richard: A great teacher...
- Cares about his/her students' academic performance
- Is willing to go above and beyond the classroom contact time
- Demands repect from students, but gives it back equally
- Can find innovative ways to augment the learning process
I once read that you could recognize a great teacher when his words continue to teach even after he is no longer in this world.
If you wrote a book about teaching, what would the title be? What points about instruction would you make?
Jam: The title would be Hidden Lessons: What Students Learn by Observation. My book would be about the lessons students learn from observing the activities of the teacher and how this affects their view of teachers and of learning.
Stella: "Sticky Ideas: The Role of Creativity in Teaching" There are techniques we can use in the classroom that have been written about in business books (specifically related to advertising)that demonstrate how to make our messages stick.