Some Assumptions about Educators

I assume educators are new to the work of teaching and learning. This has little to do with the length of readers’ curriculum vitae or the years spent in front of students. I can state with confidence that no teacher who approaches a new group of students, a new course, or even a new teaching practice or strategy as a chance to explore teaching and learning experiences the teaching, but no learning phenomenon.

I assume educators are competent. We become teachers because we are good at something. We care about, have learned about, and are prepared to share our expertise with others. This means we have something valuable and other will benefit from our expertise. One of the most interesting aspects of working in community colleges is the fact that many of the faculty have both academic expertise (they have advanced degrees) and they have real-word experience. This competence in their field does not translate into teaching competence. Implicit in my first assumption about readers, however, is an assumption if ignorance; we all have something new to learn about teaching and learning.

There is a paradox in my assumptions of simultaneous competence and ignorance. Teachers become experts in their field due to their own educational experiences. One of the difficult lessons that all new teachers realize (these are the real newbies who first step foot in a classroom as a teacher) is that not all students arrive with the same motivation, goals, and experiences as the teacher first did. This is certainly true in liberal arts classrooms and mathematics classrooms, but it is even true in many programs that prepare students to enter specific professions. Students come to you from different places and they are going different places; do not assume the path you took is the one your students are taking. Do not assume your experience and your education is just what your students need.

I assume educators desire to become more competent. I am hopeful that no reader has reached this point without a sense of despair about the teacher who complains, “I taught it, but they didn’t learn it.” If you have expertise, you must value it in it many forms; the information you know, the habits you have formed, the skills you display are all needed by your students. If you are content teaching even if they don’t learn, then I expect you never found this blog in the first place, never mind read this far.