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Important Thoughts on Teaching

by Nicholas R Yang 2 months ago in student
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A random essay about teaching philosophy my wife wrote that I edited. Enjoy, it's a bit different than what I usually post on here. She is a beautiful and smart woman. I hope her thoughts help you in some way and I felt I should share them.

Important Thoughts on Teaching
Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

My most positive learning experience was between Gr. 9 to Gr. 11. I remember when I was in my math class during those years I was able to enter something I called, the flow zone. This was my greatest learning state. During this fraction of time, I was able to almost absorb the content and knowledge being taught to me by my teacher.

I remember when the bell rang signaling the start of the class, I always told myself I needed to be hyper-focused and tuned in to what the teacher would be teaching that day. My heart rate would start to slow, and I would steady its beats. I felt as if I was the only one in that classroom like I was in another universe. I was able to follow the teacher and found myself engaging in deeper thinking while sorting through those difficult math theories scrawled across the blackboard.

It was like my intellectual muscles were being stretched and worked, and though I was extremely tired after those classes, I found a lot of joy in them. I felt the words from the teacher and those formulae they were teaching were transcribed into a whole different language, only my mind was able to recognize and encode.

It was like the knowledge flew into my brain and was etched into its fiber, much like some sort of biological hard drive. At the same time, I was able to apply the theories and formulas freely to solve any and all relevant math problems posed to me. It was more than just a feeling of achievement, I saw the beauty of math, the beauty of knowledge and I felt accomplished and so good about myself. Though this was an ascendant experience for me, I do remember learning experiences that weren't so successful as well.

This particular one happened in the summer when I worked at a summer camp. I recall a summer break after I finished my third year of an Electrical Engineering Degree. One day there was a power outage at the campground and the people who knew of my background called upon me to take a look. I looked at the power system and completely froze.

I realized that through all my training, I actually had no idea how different circuit systems worked. I had no idea how or where to start applying my theoretical knowledge. I learned all the electric system theories, yet wasn’t able to bridge them to a practical setting.

Through all my experiences in tutoring friends and family, my years of learning in a Chinese School System, and my practical (or lack thereof) knowledge. I realized that people learn differently and there needs to be a connection between practical and theoretical learning.

In figuring this important connection out, I have adopted a teaching philosophy that I hope will be able to aid my students in connecting their own dots, with the end goal of helping them succeed in their own professional lives.

I feel it is important to connect academic theories with day-to-day living. One common question students ask is what they are going to do with a particular course. A good answer to this is demonstrating the application of academic theories to day-to-day problem-solving scenarios.

For example, A good application of the acid and alkali neutralization theory is the usage of white vinegar to get rid of hard water build-up. Building the “theory to life” connection makes it easier to engage with students and have students be more persistent in long-term studying and research in a certain field. I believe this also prevents the “forget everything after the final exam” syndrome.

It is important to create a pressure-free environment to help students enter their own “flow zone”. When people are in their flow zone, time stops, and their mind enters another universe. Allowing the content to encode itself into the brain much easier.

Whether it is calculus and students can see how the formulas were developed, allowing them to make quick calculations; or in Chinese literature, helping the student connect and feel what the author was feeling. If you are in the zone, it all seems to just make sense.

Last, but not least, it is important for the teacher to explore the why with students. This generates intrinsic motivation allowing for an optimal learning environment. I believe real learning and change come from within, as much as it does the environment.

In order to generate a student’s intrinsic motivation, an instructor needs to help them find out the why… Why they should learn this course, why they should learn from a particular instructor, and what they will get from this material, are all important questions for a student to think about.

These three points are intertwined and help create an environment for success. It is also important that the introduction is clear in explaining what this class is about, and how it will benefit students in their future professional life.

The instructor needs to share why this subject exists, and what students will get from learning this class and should deliver the content in such a way as to help students enter their own flow zones, generating intrinsic motivation. In return, the students hopefully receive a deeper understanding of the material and are able to connect that bridge to the practical applications of their professional careers and later in life.

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About the author

Nicholas R Yang

An Archaeologist and aspiring Doctor, I am a part-time writer from the East Coast of Canada. Written multiple plays, poems, and short stories.

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