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Sidebar: Wisdom

Experienced teachers were asked what advice they would give new teachers.  Here are some of their responses:

  • Be yourself. Teach from your strengths (but work on areas of improvement) so you can address the multiple ways students learn. - Debra L. Berke
  • Your students are not like you -- get to know them for who they really are. - Carolyn Oxenford
  • Breathe during the first year - it's partly crazy because it's all new. See if you can find someone to 'show you the ropes.’ Connect if it helps, but don't be afraid to close your door. – Nicola Simmons
  • From the outset, be thoughtful about "boundaries." You will soon discover that you should/could/must work 24/7 and still /never/really feel you were "finished" or "caught up." So, be planful -- and be mindful about the need for balance and boundaries. Build time into your schedule for family, friends, and recreation. You will find that by achieving balance you will be optimally productive and effective as a teacher, scholar, and member of the campus community. - Kathy Watson
  • Make friends with the department secretary! - Sharon K. Calhoon
  • LISTEN to your colleagues and to your students. -Nancy Chick
  • One piece of advice would be to do what you love. It will show in your teaching, research, and personal life and make all the hard work worthwhile. – Kathy Stolley
  • To paraphrase Zig Ziglar - Students do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. - John T. Thompson
  • Be authentic! Experiment with teaching/learning/being styles until you find the one that fits (you'll know it when you find it).- Teri Balser
  • We are door-openers, not gatekeepers. - Joel Bush
  • For teaching I would say: Remember the classroom is about student learning - focus on that! For research: Get yourself out there - don't be shy - introduce yourself to the "names" in your field. For service: Be a good citizen but know when to say no.  - Donna M. Qualters
  • Reflect deeply about yourself and your enthusiasms. Be true to yourself. This will show to your students much more than anything else - we teach who we are. If you love learning, you will help others to learn. -Alice Macpherson
  • Teaching customarily involves two or more people. Its success is a function of the quality of the relationship between/among teacher and student(s). - Linc. Fishch
  • Remain a student. Take a class, any class, academic or non-academic. Take a class to stay connected to what it feels like to be a student, to be unfamiliar with material, to get confused by instructions or explanations, to be nervous about asking a question, to not be able to keep up, or to wish others would catch on more quickly. Take a class to stay connected to what their experience as learners might be.- Lisa Handler
  • Remember that your class sessions should be organized around what you want students to learn - what they should know, be able to understand, do, or feel differently at the end of class. "What do I want them to get out of this" should be your guide, not "what will I teach" during that class session. - Ellen L. Nuffer
  • "Resist the temptation to be the smartest one in the class." This is not an easy concept for students right out of grad school. - Phyllis Gleason
  • Be learner-centered, not self-centered. It's not about you, the teacher. It's about the students and their learning - Lori Schroeder
  • I make a point in my first class of a term of telling the students, "I'm not here to teach. I'm here to help you to learn." Then I do my best to live up to that. It has taken quite a few years to get there... - Richard Walters
  • When teaching, inevitably, you will have days that are disastrous and days that are marvelous. Try to remember that the 'disastrous' days were not as bad as you thought. At the same time, when you think your teaching was marvelous, try to remember, those days were likely not as marvelous as you thought. The moral: Temper your judgment of your teaching with the understanding that we exaggerate most everything when in front of a group. - Dan Pratt
  • Because you were college students, each of you already has a great deal of valuable knowledge regarding college teaching. That knowledge is important, but it is also incomplete and problematic. As students you've observed what goes on in classrooms, how teachers act and interact, and various learning activities and course structures. However, even if you've been very attentive what you've experienced is only half the story. What you haven't seen is the planning, the informed choice-making, and the reasoning that underpins all good teaching. If you take this time to examine what you already know about teaching you will probably find that you know a lot about "how" teaching is done, and what you need to discover is "why". - Jim Borgford-Parnell
  • Hold your students to high standards but provide them with the tools they'll need to meet them. - Lauren Clodi Whitehead
  • Your students are likely to be implicit rational choice theorists… trying to get the highest reward for the least expenditure of effort and the least "pain." However, if you respond with a rationale choice focus yourself--trying to catch them in the "game" and beginning to play the game yourself--you ensure that only surface learning will occur. The art of college teaching is to stimulate "deep learning" --and /deep learning/ requires a conversion of students to social constructionists; they must come to seek meaning in their education, in interpretation/understanding of social patterns, in the search for wisdom. Deep learning is perspective transforming learning that lasts a lifetime, and that entails a search for and application of meaning. So, avoid the temptation to play the cost/benefit game and do not treat your students as "customers." They are too important to be mere customers. They should be your mentees in the search for meaning and wisdom. – Keith Roberts
  • I would advise: love your students. With a genuine love for students, instructors somehow work out all the issues of course design, methods, class rapport, etc. - Linda Nilson
Virginia Commonwealth University  |  Center for Teaching Excellence
Last updated: 06/20/2013
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