Saturday, April 23, 2005

I Profess, To You My Brothers and Sisters...

I am about to embark on a new and exciting challenge in my adventures as one who "professes" truths (or perceived truths) to young and impressionable minds. It seems far-fetched from what I do now, because I will (attempt to) teach politics of the international kind. It is really not that different from teaching a foreign language because it entails pretty much the same dynamics. Throughout the last 3 years I profess that these dynamics are:

1. To be an effective teacher, one must first and foremost be engaging. It evidently matters that you know your area of study like the back of your hand, but a good scholar does not make an effective teacher. You could be a genius in your field but without succesfully inciting the curiosity of your students and engaging their interest by showing how study of a certain discipline matters in the real world, then why bother? Your students will just as soon catch ZZZs than listen to your expert diagnoses.

2. To be engaging one must entertain. You are evidently in front of an audience, and within the anonimity of a crowd, students' consciousness are liable to wander. And wander they will. And so you must work assiduously to keep their attention. If you skilfully guise imparting knowledge in lively banter and occasional jokes, then you have won half the battle.

3. To conduct lively banter, one must be open to critique. Just because you are the one standing in front, armed with the numerous letters after your name, does not mean you are God, that is, all-wise and all-knowing. Respect your students, respect their views and opinions because they too are thinking individuals like yourself.

4. To be open to critique and be entertaining, one must be humble. You may think yourself exceptionally gifted with mental capacities, but that doesn't make you the master of anyone, least of all your students. By all means speak with authority, but always be conscious that you are human and are fallible. Don't take yourself too seriously, the capacity for self-deprecation is crucial in letting your students know you are there not to pontificate but to primarily incite their curiosities and encourage and sustain the different directions these may take.

5. Finally, you are there merely to guide, to point out certain possibilities, to enlighten. Present as many versions of truths there are on offer, and let them decide. Bolster their courage and confidence. Do not privilege your own to the detriment of theirs. Fear and intimidation does not engender respect. If you want to be respected because you are feared, then that is the EASY way out.

So there. Armed with these comforting philosophies, I brace myself to conquer new territory come Monday. Baptism of fire indeed.

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