Faculty and Staff
What does it mean to be a teacher? As almost anyone who steps into a classroom on a regular basis can tell you, this is a question that constantly echoes around us. It's a question that we grapple with daily, from that first look in the mirror in the morning as we're getting ready for class, to the last paper we grade late in the evening before bed. We think about it, we talk to other faculty about it; we talk to administrators about it. And we talk to students about it.
At its heart, I believe good teaching is about communication and I believe it is both art and craft. Watching others who excel at it, listening to students who recognize it, I've learned that being a good teacher is being able to communicate to and with others, sharing your knowledge, sharing your discipline, and building a community of teaching and learning that transcends the classroom space. We say some people are born teachers, artists in the classroom, who have an instinctive ability to make connections with students and turn information into knowledge. Others among us learn to be good teachers by constantly working at our craft, continually honing our skills. But whether we as individual teachers are thought to be naturally talented artists or simply good craftsmen, good teaching is more than the transmittal of information. It is helping students integrate and synthesize information so as to create new knowledge, connecting ideas and questions across a broad range of studies. And while we are not all born good teachers, we can all learn to be better at our craft.
And working at our craft, being continually aware and self-reflective of who we are and what we do as teachers, brings its own rewards. Every so often, on those days that make it all worthwhile, we seem to do something more: we enlighten, we transform. We open intellectual doors our students didn't know were there and watch them walk through into a truly new world. On those days, it's easy to smile in the mirror. On those days it's easy to know what it means to be a teacher.