Five principles of the evil teaching guru

When you apply for a university job you include a “teaching philosophy”, depending on institution this can be ignored or taken seriously. I have a teaching philosophy. Though I am not sure I would ever submit this version for any job application!

1) Teaching is impossible

The idea of teaching implies that you can be the active party in someone else’s learning. This is not really the case if you want to go beyond a little rote recitation and rule following.

2) Impose yourself

Once you have accepted that you are engaged in a fool’s errand get arrogant, unless you are confident that you can persuade, cajole and trick people into learning for themselves, you will not be able to. In order to do this you must be able to gain some control, getting a classroom or individuals to listen to you. Without some form of control you will be ignored or even humiliated. Once you can gain control, however, please do not stop there. Many do, and they become the legends people complain about for years to come. Instead…

3) Do less

Remember that what you do really does not matter. It is what your students do that matters. If you have opened up a class discussion and it is going well and on topic, let it be. The best state for anyone learning is when they go for it on their own, the teacher silent.

4) Confuse and take risks

Now we are into the essential, but dangerous skill. There is certainly bad confusion, but there are good forms too. Again this is about what the student does, more than about you. The simplest thing is to simple “be less helpful” but you can take it further and take a risk. Make your students confused, make them fail, it can really help their journey to learning independent of you.

5) Learn

I have used the term students throughout this piece, but that is wrong, try to drop it from your thinking. Take every chance to learn from the people you work with, make it a two-way engagement. Also never forget to consciously hone your craft. You might have explained how to do a certain problem hundreds of times, is there a new way to try?

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