Saturday, December 24, 2016

Deep Insights

The Art of Teaching
By Jay Parini

Next semester, I will be teaching my first-ever class of Civil Engineering undergraduates and graduate students, marking (finally) my entry into college teaching, a professions I have coveted for years. However, the closer the first day of the new semester comes, the more anxious I feel: what exactly is going on the students' minds? Are students listening to me? Am I trying too hard?

And so I picked up this little book, the thoughts of a now-senior professor of English literature, containing his views based on his many years of teaching. Some of it I could well-relate to: how having classes can help you to organize your day, making such days far more productive than those without. His views on teaching as an art rather surprised me, for I always thought that teachers are just good by themselves, but Parini says that they become good through deliberate practice. Thus, a professor must not only prepare for a class in terms of content, but also in terms of how that content is delivered.

Some parts of the book, particularly on discussing politics in class, I could not relate to because it is irrelevant to engineering education. Moreover, I strongly disagree with it, although it was insightful nonetheless. In the end however, you can only read so much - the time to teach is less than a month away, and practice makes perfect!

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