A reflection on teaching

Part of my course requirements are that I send time teaching, but thankfully there is help to get me up and running with some skills.

I have been asked to put together a 500 word reflective essay to get me started thinking about past experiences with teaching and I assume they mean as a student. But I do have some experience on the other side of the fence. During my undergraduate I spent some time as an algorithms tutor and I really enjoyed the experience. Also at many points in the past I have performed informal tutoring.

So what makes for a good teacher and a good learning environment?

Enthusiasm – I think that the absolute best thing to have in a teacher is enthusiasm. Even if they aren’t the most knowledgeable person in the field, if they can infect you with the an enthusiasm for the subject then that will propel you toward success. I can think of four teachers that have had this effect on me: my high school teacher teacher Ron Williamson, my high school choir teacher Katherine Fujikawa, my junior college Unix instructor Behrouz Forouzan, and my undergraduate algorithms instructor Muniyappa “Manju” Manjunathaiah. All four of these people have had a lasting effect on my life.

Connection – In addition to enthusiasm an instructor needs to be connected to the audience.  I have sat through many lectures of very knowledgeable people only to be bored to death trying to pay attention with an ever flagging attention span. But then there are instructors that connect to the audience and keep you engaged and enthused during the talk. This links to the previous attribute enthusiasm, if you don’t care about the subject then you aren’t going to care about the delivery.  One of the best techniques that I have heard of is to talk directly to different audience members during your lecture to actually connect to that section of the audience.

Knowledge – Knowledge is an important attribute in a teacher, but a teacher doesn’t need to be top of the field which is why I put this third. A teacher that can impart the basics of the subject and an enthusiasm to learn more and provide a better learning experience than a more knowledgeable expert that doesn’t connect tot he audience and impart a sense of wonder and curiosity.

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