A lesson from Dad

PopsIt’s finals week for my third semester. While most of my classes deal with different types of pedagogy, a few have dealt with some deeper aspects of teaching. Basically if and how teachers should connect with students to help foster an environment of learning.
I figured I’d share part of an essay I wrote for this week’s class.

I had my dad for a class in college. He was around 60 and had more than 30 years in by then. A couple times in class he’d offer life lessons.

I always felt uncomfortable sitting through them. I kind of felt like his job was to teach math and his branching out made me a bit uncomfortable. Interestingly, I probably wouldn’t have reacted the same if my other professors did this.

But my classmates ate it up. He won a ton of awards for his teaching and I think those little connections he made with students were a big thing. For example, one time before a test he said, “I ask you not to cheat. Don’t do that to me. If you fail this test, we’ll work it out. But don’t cheat.” Then he added, “And not just in this class, but in other classes or on your careers or your spouses.”

I probably won’t talk to my middle schoolers about cheating on their spouses. But I do think there is a place for teaching like Dad did.

I’ve often found that there are some interesting similarities between journalism and teaching. Most of our classes drench themselves in objectivity. But one of our classes required us to read “The Courage to Teach,” which would be a good read for any field. In it, the author compels educators to connect with their material and students on a personal level. He shows how that helps teachers connect the students and the material.

Dad had that courage to teach.

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