[ExI] musings on teaching

William Flynn Wallace foozler83 at gmail.com
Tue Feb 10 21:38:50 UTC 2015

Some tongue in cheek, some serious.  You figure it out.

Scenario 1 - Teacher has class read something, then everyone discusses
everyone's interpretation of said something.

Verdict - This is not teaching any more than reading a bible verse and
discussing what everyone thinks of it is bible study.

Scenario 2 - class reads something, then teacher politely listens to
idiot's interpretations, then shoots them down one by one and offers the
whole and complete truth, i.e., his opinion.

Verdict - some teaching here but a lot of time wasted

Scenario 3 - Class reads, teacher tells them what it means, wastes no time
with idiots, embarrasses no one who hasn't read it, angers those who
disagree into some actual thought, perhaps.

Verdict - OK for undergraduates - won't get good evaluations

Scenario 4 - Same as three but tells them nothing - assigns paper on
reading to be corrected, preferably under the influence of something.  When
opinion is beaten out of him offers interpretation that mixes right-on with
wildly improbable, student to sort out which is which.*

Verdict - OK for grad school, some wasted time

Scenario 5 - same as four, but class never meets.  Reading list is put on
the board, papers are collected at semester's end.  Paper essentials are
completely and unambiguously spelled out, cutting down on trips to the
prof's office.

Verdict - good for lazy teachers who really don't like to teach - grad
school only

Scenario 6 - same as four, but paper essentials are poorly and ambiguously
spelled out so that success is totally a matter of prof's opinion.
Students' panicky trips to prof's office give prof the intellectual
stimulation he needs, and most teaching is done in his office.

Verdict - The best.  Ambiguity and anxiety keep enrollment down and
attracts only good students.

*  In an intro course once I got bored and starting deviating from the book
and from the principles etc. that I was supposed to be teaching.  I got
crazier and crazier for about 15 minutes before one very hesitant girl
raised her hand and asked if I was really sure about that last thing.  I
said that for 15 minutes I had been shoveling bullshit. I told the very
angry class that they had to be able to recognize bullshit as part of their
essential education and they just had a taste of it.  Still weren't too
thrilled at being duped.  Who is?

Bill W
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