Teaching: Anybody can do that (oh wait, it’s actually quite hard)

Teaching is an art form, plain and simple, yet we often treat it as something anyone can do.  “Anybody can do that” we often think.  Why is that?  Why is it expected that nearly anyone with professional skills can be thrown into a classroom and teach effectively?  I think the problem may not be that we actually think this about people; we just may not care.  Although education is one of the most valuable components of helping developing minds grow, we often forget the most important component of teaching.  We have confused learning facts with actual learning – the kind that engages you and pushes you to achieve more than you thought possible.  In a lot of school and university system’s minds, it is decided that as long as there is a body in the room to teach facts, we have it covered.  Wow – how you miss out on the possibilities of teaching and learning when we take this stance!

When I think back to my most valuable experiences as a student, I do not think about the teachers that could cram the most amount of information into a class period (not that content is not important).  No – I am struck by the professors who gave me the tools to discover, explore, and LEARN myself!  In looking back, I realized how brilliantly they orchestrated my own learning without me realizing it.  By letting ME be the main actor in my learning experience rather than letting me passively sit by to be “taught,” I learned to discover, interpret, explore, and create.  More importantly, I learned I was capable of these things. 

So here I sit, at a crossroads as both student and teacher.  Soon I will move further into the role of teacher and more out of the role of student.  And sadly, I can admit to often being that teacher that just “teaches” facts.  But I want to be that teacher who engages students’ minds for all they are worth.  I want to learn to expect more from my students and to let them be the actors in their own play of education.  The challenge is doing it.  As I said, teaching is an art form.  And like all art forms, it requires a finesse that is vaguely described, hard to comprehend, but unmistakable when you see it.

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About Megan Johnson Shen

I am a social psychologist graduating with my Ph.D. from Baylor University this May and moving to NYC this summer to start a new job as a postdoctoral researcher at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in the Cancer Prevention and Control Department. I love the brain, human behavior, and anything to do with understanding them better. I love research and a good dinner party. Fine wine and cheese - I'm there. Interesting experimental data? I'll probably show for that too. View all posts by Megan Johnson Shen

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