Teaching teaching

Randy McGuire (BG1847@BINGVMB.BITNET)
Fri, 4 Mar 1994 08:44:05 ECT

students, and faculty in our discipline are not taught to be teachers. This is
a common refrain both at a national level and on my campus. I am not sure,
however, that it is totally valid. The gripe seems to presume that the only,
best, or most appropriate way to learn to teach is sitting in a classroom and
being told how to. I would suggest that this is like suggesting that someone
learn to swim through lectures and reading a book. The fact is that anyone who
is in graduate school has already recieved extensive training in teaching.
They have observed and participated in hundreds of classrooms with dozens of
teachers, some good, some bad, and all different. This is the most valuable
experience that anyone has to becoming a good teacher. What ever skills I
have as a teacher came from me reflecting on the good teachers I had had and
then trying to apply what they did in my own classroom. As a TA I worked with
professors on several levels of courses and in this apprenticeship I learned
the mechanics of teaching, how to prepare syllabi, calculate grade curves, etc.
I have never had a course on how to teach, and I do not feel the lack of it. I
do not wish to say that such a course would not be useful, but ultimatly you
learn to teach like you learn to swim, by doing it. It is important to have
help in that but the most important help you will ever have, all those previous
teachers you have already had. Also, like swimming some of us will only learn
enough not to drown, while others of us will love it. That love of teaching
and the dedication that comes from it cannot be taught.
Randy McGuire