I suppose it betrays the color of my lenses these days to say I believe nearly every problem my university currently faces can be solved with better teaching. I suppose I’m tending toward hyperbole these days, too. 🙂
But seriously, better teaching or, let me be honest, what I’m seeing called meaningful, mindful, or transformative education or Contemplative pedagogy, seems like a way to work at the roots of an issue rather than react to or band-aid it. Take, for example, Commencement.
I’ll spare us all the details but last year’s Commencement ceremony featured a greater-than-before number of students whose behavior suggested disrespect for any number of entities: themselves, their peers, the community, the school, the ritual, their experience, their education, etc. Also, a handful of graduates expressed hostile resentment toward both campus catering and the bookstore on their way out of the field gates. Different campus constituencies have been attempting to diagnose and treat this behavioral issue, a task made more pressing by the approach of 2013 Commencement.
Now, I could write fourteen single-spaced pages on precisely how and why better teaching eliminates the cause of such behavior and therefore should be made a priority. (The fourteen page claim is, sadly for me, not hyperbolic). For this blog I’ll just say that we teachers have both the opportunity and obligation to help students explore what their lives are about and how they’re choosing to live them. Better teaching, alongside all of the fabulous structural, support, and engagement ideas generated and enacted by other campus groups, is how we can best serve our community.
Let’s educate ourselves about meaning, ethics, and relevance by engaging our passions in our teaching, service and research. Let’s honor our disciplines and passions by continuing to learn through experience, analysis, experimentation, and creation. Let’s ask genuine questions of our students, questions that tap our own curiosity and drive authentic teaching and learning moments. Let us be present with ourselves and our students and thereby weave alongside our curricula a web of respect, concern, and care for the educational experience through our pedagogy.
Okay, I’ll admit better teaching won’t cure a hangover. But I’m going to do my small part to see that my students have them less often.