The kind of teacher I do not want to be

Earlier today as I was going through the readings for this week, I kept asking myself, “What kind of teacher do I want to be?” I had a quick flashback of all my student life until now and reminded me of some of the great teachers I have had so far. “What did they do that made them so great?” Although there were some common attributes these teachers shared with each other, each of these “great” teachers had their unique styles that motivated you to be actively involved in the learning process. So…..what style of teaching is the best style? Which one of these teachers do I want to be in future? A very difficult question to answer because, as Dr. Fowler writes,” There is not one way to teach or communicate in the classroom, so one size does not fit all.” 

I only have a vague picture of what I want to do as a future teacher but a very clear idea of what I do not want to do as a future teacher or in other words, the kind of teacher I do not want to be.

I do not want to be a teacher who,

  • Walks in the classroom and starts writing on the board right-after without even turning around once to look at the students until the end of class hour.
  • Sits on a chair throughout the class time and reads you line by line from text books.
  • Assigns you a lot of homework assignments but never gives you any feedback.
  • Only talks about what is going to be on the tests and puts a limit on learning.
  • Uses the same “teaching formula” for all their students not realizing that each student has different capacities.
  • Speaks in a low monotonic voice.
  • Directly or indirectly force you to memorize equations and charts.
  • Only uses the chalkboard to teach.
  • Never ask for any feedback from the students or doesn’t listen to the student voices.
  • Does not know how to deliver information concisely and effectively.
  • Evaluates you based on the mere grades you receive in the course.
  • Does not create a welcoming environment for discussion and sharing of ideas in and outside of classrooms.
  • Uses the same syllabus, course materials, homework, and tests for decades.
  • Discourages the use of technology in classrooms.
  • Does not give second chances to students.
  • Only talks to the first row of students in class.
  • Does not know the subject matter well and is unprepared.
  • ………………………………
  • ………………
  • ……….
  • .

(I think I should stop now because the list just keeps getting longer and longer.)

Moral of the story: The best one could do is to at least try to avoid the things that you thought your teachers did that didn’t work for you and think of what you would do if you were in their place. I think the key is “engagement” and the goal is to create the kind of environment that helps foster an effective teaching-learning process.



Dream Learning

I dream about learning constantly. I dream at night about my own learning: finding my way, getting out of situations or trouble, helping others, finding something that is lost. I dream during the day of how to create a learning environment that is free from constraints of time and grades, but not standards or measures of competency – I think of them more like literacy standards (Seymour and others): the basic building blocks of understanding that will help to scaffold additional learning and create opportunity for greater awareness.

I am a teacher, and Educator. If I were asked if I always wanted to be a teacher I would say ‘yes’ even though I did not turn to it as a profession until I was in my mid-thirties. I have always been an educator. I read to my friends and showed them the things I knew about words, playing Chutes and Ladders, what flowers grew under the trees, how fast I could ride my bicycle to the end of the road and back.  When I was in college, I became a peer tutor and quickly realized that in facilitating others’ understanding of accounting methods I learned the content more explicitly than had I studied on my own. When I was a young adult, I worked with middle school students to show them the power behind organizational theory, basic economic principles and business planning. When I became a mother, I reveled in demonstrating what I knew, exposing my children to the wonders of the natural world, and how to pay attention to their surroundings.

In my mind I can see the learning Dewey (and Montessori, and Reggio) envisioned for children: through experiences and under the guidance of adults who can encourage, challenge and re-direct (if necessary) toward successful practice and understanding.


Teaching like cooking

From my understanding, a good cook must enjoy eating food; from my understanding, a good teacher must have his/her own way to master learning. Today I just realized that teaching is similar to making food.

I think anyone can make good food as long as there is enough care. I remember in one of the episodes in the anime series The best in Chinese (food), the young chef figured out one of the secret ingredients in his mom’s famous dish is love, the care of food and the customers. As is written in Shara Deel’s article, there is no universal method that can be applied by any educators for any situations. Enough care and devotedness can make much more difference than any teaching methods being used carelessly. I see many teachers and have been taught by many of them. I felt surprised when I knew that there are so many theories and techniques in pedagogy. Most of the teachers were professionally trained as teachers and they supposed to know these pedagogies. How Come many of them sucked in teaching? Then I realized that teaching is not like solving an engineering problem where, with enough proficiency, one can solve the problem in an autopilot mode. All great work includes full care. In the real world, not everything needs to be great. Good work in most cases can work fine. To make great food, the cook needs to devote all his/her attention to the food. There is a dish made of tofu. In that dish, a silk tofu was cut into slices and then further cut into shreds. The silk tofu is something that can be broken with a single touch. One can imagine how much effort should be put into making this dish. Are people amazed by the taste of this dish? Or maybe they feel the taste by feeling the care of the cook.



Like every cook has his/her own flavor, every educator has his/her own teaching style. It may take a while to figure out what the favorite food is and what the best food the cook can make. I taught a class which was recorded for students reviewing. I watched that video and found out that I did not have a deep voice and sounded like an experienced knowledgeable elder professor. I’m a young man. Why should I act as an elder professor? I gave a lecture last week and I asked one of my friends who was sitting in the class about how I did. He said you looked achievable and seemed knowing what you were talking about so we felt confident in you. It seems the feedback is OK. Maybe I should just reinforce what I am good at and try to fix or avoid what could cause problems.

Understanding the How

One of the greatest impacts that people can have in life is through education. It plays a vital role shaping tomorrows leaders and future professionals, as consequence teaching cannot be taken lightly. Under this scope, it is critical to develop an appropriate teaching approach due to the monumental effect that professors might have on students’ life.

In my attempting and exploration to answer the How of my last post, I ended creating my personalized teaching model, which I named “CAR” (create, acknowledge and remember). The idea of this model was to identify the key aspects to determine my own teaching style.



As a teacher:

With the students:

CREATE -Comfortableness

-Plan A, B, C and D




ACKNOWLEDGE -Role: guide and facilitate

-Refine and update



REMEMBER -Cards on the table







As teacher, it is critical to create comfortableness with what we are teaching. This is referred to the preparation and familiarity with the topic. In addition, the creation of a plan B, C and D can help to be flexible. Sometimes, even under a great pacification, and as most as we want to have things under control, things happen and we must be prepared. It is critical to kill the panic, breath, chill out, and let the class take its own course.

With students, the creation of engagement and interest on the class can change the whole experience for both parties. Also, the creation of boundaries are the guidelines to set expectations, and responsibilities form both sides.



As teacher, is fundamental to acknowledge that the role is to facilitate and guide the process of learning. The need to refine and update, this two will help to enhance my teaching methods and change what is not working to create a smooth teach-learn process.

With students, to acknowledge their efforts and achievement to maintain the class motivated.



As teacher, remembering to put all the rules and cards on the table at the beginning of the course. Furthermore, let the students decide and be part of the game. Which means that students can get involved in the process by suggesting, changing and proposing. Furthermore, it is crucial to always be aware of the “PPE” of teaching (passion, preparation and energy).

With students, that by nature a human being is unique and different. So, there will be a notable variation among students, with different skills and backgrounds. This last, underlined the need to incorporate different methods to ensure that everybody has an opportunity to learn and develop the desire skills.


Finally, to have an accurate answer of the How: Just do it!

It might sound as a Nike advertisement, but it is completely true. I would never know if the model described above is effective unless I try it.


About the author,

Sofia Rincon Gallardo Patino, hate to wash dishes and do her laundry.

The Secret Sauce

Teaching style can be kind of like a secret sauce. It’s that special thing that makes you unique, a kind of trademark. As a high school student I had certainly thought that I might like to become a teacher at some point, but it wasn’t until years later that I discovered my passion for teaching. My journey through undergraduate education was nontraditional. I took a five year break from classes and worked at Saggio’s Pizzeria in my hometown of Albuquerque. By the time I left, I had performed every job in the restaurant and was working at a new drive-thru store that I helped open. My favorite job during this time was being a pizza maker. It was one of the biggest and busiest restaurants in town and it was really fun to be running around a flour covered kitchen making pizzas and calzones as fast as I could. Another part of this job that I really enjoyed was getting to train the new employees. I was very passionate about the food that I made and I enjoyed teaching new people how to make the most beautiful mediterranean pizza or how to cut the perfect leaf-shaped vent holes in a calzone. When I was reading the material from Professor Fowler, it made me think of my experience in the pizzeria. I enjoyed teaching the material because it was something that I was really passionate about. It also made me recognize that teaching in a classroom requires awareness of so many other important details aside from just being passionate.

I have not yet had the opportunity to teach a class, so it is difficult to say what my teaching style is. I have been a TA for two mechanical engineering labs however, and I think I can say I want to be a teacher who promotes learning above all else. I think I will be able to relate to students who do not succeed in traditional classrooms because I am a student who really struggles in those environments. Becoming a mentor to students is something that really drives me.

Professor Fowler also talks about nerves, how they effect teaching and how they can be leveraged to be, as Fowler says, “positive attributes”. I like this point and I think that learning to harness one’s nervousness is an essential skill even for those who do not “perform” as teachers do, in front of people everyday. I began playing the conga drums when I was 10 years old and began performing in front of crowds soon after. I was incredibly nervous the first time that I walked out onto a stage to perform. It was so scary, but it was also really exciting. I look forward to developing my teaching so that I can get that same excitement after a great lecture.

While I may not know what my teaching style or technique will look like, I do know that like any good pizza you must consider all the ingredients and how they come together to make something truly special. You must take care and have patience with the dough and you have to have good sauce and good cheese but never too much of either! As a teacher you must foster a safe and patient environment and include the right amounts of structure and freedom, without too much of either, to create that special space where learning flourishes.

GEDIF17 – Hey, Professor! I Wanna Be Like You! 2017-10-01 23:12:42

Two weeks ago I borrowed this book from my advisor. This book is pretty old, but still gives a lots of useful advise from how to design a course to how to do a lecture. My advisor knows now I’m getting started to write my teaching philosophy. As a result, he told me we have to spend some time in our every meeting to discuss about teaching. Ahhhh~~ so nice of him……

Anyway!! Let me get back to the topic of this week!

Instead of thinking about what kind of teacher I want to be, I would like to first think about what kind of people I wish my students can be after they graduate. Because the primary goal is to prepare them for  their future career, I list a few characteristics and skills that I aim to helping them to develop in my courses:

curiosity, critical thinking, creativity, solid background, self-learning ability, confidence, a sense of achievement, perseverance, carefulness, patience.

Among all of them, the most important one is to help them enjoy a sense of achievement during their learning process!!! I believe this is the key to other things because a sense of achievement will give them confidence to discover new knowledge, exhibit their curiosity, use their imagination, create and present their own opinions in front of others. In other words, learning should be fun for my students! The second two important things are to provide them solid background and to help them further develop perseverance, carefulness, patience, and more importantly self-learning ability! I don’t expect that all knowledge they learn in class are useful  for their future career, or they can still remember when they really need to use it. What learning in college most benefits them is let them know how to deal with  a problem, how to make a right decision, where to find the resources, how to overcome difficulties and frustration, how to do work under pressure, how to express their own opinion but also respect comments from others and etc.

In summary, I think the learning process is actually more important than the knowledge delivered in class. College is highly likely to be their last education in their lives. During these four years, we need to teach them to become their own teachers so that they can learn new things on their own when it’s needed.

But… How to make my students have the above mentioned skills and characteristics?

Oh well… I still haven’t figured it out yet… :p

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Teaching Voice

After finishing my BS in Civil Engineering, I started as a lecturer in a University (A) in Bangladesh. I started teaching lab classes mainly. I did not have any training on teaching. This type of training is not available back in my country. One of the major reasons for choosing to teach over any other industrial job that time was that I was planning on applying to the US for my higher education. For international students applying to the US for graduate school, there are requirements of GRE and TOEFL/IELTS. I was planning for the US and had to take these specialized tests. So a job in teaching was the perfect option as it takes less time and effort compared to an industry job. So this gave me more preparation time for my higher education. My teaching career started and I was getting confident in teaching. One of the things that I did was to prepare carefully before the class. Apart from this, I used most of my time for GRE/TOEFL/application process. I tried to stay friendly with the students and do my job in explaining things in the simplest possible ways. After six months, I moved to University B, which was one of the best private engineering schools in my country and I was excited to be there. I  started enjoying teaching more. The students were sharp and I spent more time in preparing for classes. I stayed friendly and kept a welcoming environment in the class. I understood that students liked me but was not sure about the quality of my teaching. I taught there for eight months before moving to the US for my masters back in August 2013. During my masters, I learned the basic things of my discipline in more details. I started having a bad feeling about my performance in teaching back in my country. At that time I understood that after completing my BS, I was not knowledgeable enough for teaching in a University. I felt like that I would have done better if I had my MS before starting teaching. The most important thing to me in teaching is to create a friendly environment in the class where every student feels welcome. I had a teacher back in Washington State University who used to ask questions in the class. Once he asked me a question which I did not have any idea of. So I tried to say something on that. I realized that my answer was 180 degree opposite to the right answer. Yet, the professor connected my answer with the correct answer. I really found that way of teaching very encouraging, where there will be no right and wrong answer. The teacher will give same weight to every student’s opinion. My teaching philosophy thus involves a friendly and welcoming environment for all students where every student will feel excited to share their opinion.

White Lab Coats. Seriously?


I’ve never donned a white coat in my laboratory.

Some days I’ll wear laser safety goggles.

Some days a t-shirt and pants will do.

On others, a slightly nicer collared-shirt is in.

Maybe even work clothes.

And on rare occasions, a wetsuit.

But never a white coat.



For some people, science is wearing a white lab coat. But that’s not how I do it.

Its surprising, I think, that some people assume that’s what scientist do — hide behind lab coats:

“… I propose giving a name to a new kind of theory of learning which will reflect the fact that human experience gives all of us a vaster store of knowledge about learning than has been accumulated by all white-coated academics in their laboratories. ”   — Seymour Papert

Oh, please, Seymour…

Scientists gain and develop knowledge through experience – it’s no different for us than anyone else. And we gain experience by experiencing. There’s no short cut.

Year after year I’m amazed at the wide array of skills that are required to place myself in the path of new experiences. This is a point that I like to make very clear to my students. If they are to become engineers: the good jobs, the interesting jobs, the jobs worth having require far more skills than can be taught during the undergraduate experience. Each student need to develop a mindset that allows them to set aside experince limiting attachments.  In that way, the course of their lives — what’s needed in the moment — can be the best teacher they’ll ever have.

One of the ways I convey this in my Introduction to Engineering course is by coming to lecture dressed exactly as my day requires me to be dressed. Some days this is a suit and tie, while others… well you saw the list above.

I’ve learned never to directly address why I come to class dressed in such a wide variety of outfits. I just come, deliver the lecture and carry on as normal. The lesson that is planned is secret. It only unfolds when the time is right. And experience has shown that I don’t have to wait long before one of the more boisterous students unwittingly calls for it:

“Some days you come dressed in tattered jeans and a t-shirt, and now you’re wearing a suit? What’s your deal? What do you do with your days?!”



Now I have their attention.


I could have lectured /at them/ for weeks on the types of skills needed to be a successful engineer. But with this one question – and a well timed answer – I can convey the depth and breadth of the work covered by the term “engineering” or “research scientist”… at least as it pertains to me. 

And isn’t that the point?

I’m barely an expert at what I do. How can I genuinely represent myself as an expert on what it takes to be successful for other people?  In other fields? In different times, places, cultures?

I can’t.

All I can do is be to genuine with myself and with my students. That’s the best, most authentic version of my teaching — sharing my experiences with my students  so they can learn from them. If it were anything else, they could get it from a book.  

And perhaps some of the things I have to say about my experiences as a researcher don’t apply to them? But that’s OK too.  The lesson for these students is that I’m teaching how I learn from my experiences — by example.

Every day is different. What’s required of each and every one of us if we are to be successful– no matter your background or discipline  —  is a detachment from what we thought we knew the day before; detachment from the things we *want* to be true.

I’d really like science to just require a white lab coat. But it doesn’t. It requires a great deal more. And that’s one of the best lessons I can hope to leave my students with: the cost (and rewards) of dedication.



Authentic Self(-Authorship)

Marcia Baxter Magolda’s theory of self-authorship, though widely used for understanding college student development, aptly applies to the idea of teaching authentically. Baxter Magolda’s theory has four phases: following formulas, crossroads, becoming the author of one’s life, and internal foundation (Patton, Renn, Guido, & Quaye, 2016).

Following formulas: self is defined by others (parents, authoritative figures, etc.), adhere to rules because it’s the norm

Crossroads: start to develop personal beliefs and opinions, but unsure how others’ beliefs and opinions impact you

Becoming the author of one’s life:  making life decisions based on personal beliefs and opinions

Internal foundation: solid sense of self, able to act through personal ideals, while also understanding that everyone has personal beliefs, and relationships should have mutual respect

The route to becoming an authentic teacher seems to follow similar phases. As new teachers struggle to impress students, they rate their teaching only on how students react to them (do they like me or hate me?). Teachers may read about appropriate techniques, or “formulas”, but there is no personal touch to their teaching. Eventually, teachers may start to develop their own methods and attempt to implement them more in the classroom. After this, teachers could start to move away from the idea that they need to be popular, and instead use certain techniques because they fit with their personal style and ideals. Finally, teachers might develop a level of confidence that allows them to act authentically in the classroom. They might teach a certain way or talk about specific things not because they think they’ll score popularity points with students, but because they believe it’s an important lesson. Also at this stage, teachers will understand that students learn at a different pace, have varying interpretations and opinions, and unique personalities.

I’ve used Baxter Magolda’s theory of self-authorship to understand some of my own life decisions, and I’m excited to apply it more to teaching methods. Woohoo! Give it a try!

Patton, L. D., Renn, K. A., Guido, F. M., & Quaye, S. J. (2016). Student development in college: Theory, research, and practice (3rd edition). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Doing Justice to Our Profession

Sarah Deel’s piece resonated with me. I am very much exploring my own voice and classroom management style this semester. I tended to keep the national security and international security courses I taught at arm’s length last year, yet this year my fingerprints are all over the syllabus, course content, assignments, approach to the content, and to the management of the classroom. While this makes me feel more comfortable teaching the Arab-Israeli Dispute course, it also opens me up to productive frustration and disbelief, as was the case with my session last Thursday.

The session last week was hands-down the most depressing experience I have had in front of a classroom. My students lacked the kind of engagement I sought, and mostly seemed apathetic to what I view as a very provocative topic: the Adolf Eichmann Trial. We covered the 1950s up to the 1960s, ending with the Adolf Eichmann Trial in Jerusalem in 1961. For me, this trial represents one of the ultimate provocations for reflecting on notions of justice, injustice, right, wrong, and relationships between individuals and wider systems. (to clarify, the Israelis learned Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi war criminal with a part in genocide, was living in Buenos Aires, so they capture him in 1959, then bring him to Israel to stand trial. His defense was basically, “I was a cog in a machine, I had no choice.”)

From my perspective, anyone with a pulse should have a view on some aspect of this case, whether it relates to justice, injustice, intersections of individuals with wider systems and structures, among others. Yet only about seven of thirty-seven students really felt compelled to contribute. I was in awe. I posed questions, such as “is his defense plausible?” “Did the Israelis have a right to breach international law to retrieve, then try him?” “Is his execution justice?” “How do you define justice or injustice?” “What is an example of injustice to you?”

Obviously, I did not pose all those questions at once, but after a few students chimed in. Yet it was the same handful of students who offered their thoughts. The rest of the class was silent. It is hard for me to fathom being in any room, where someone would not have a view worth sharing on this situation. While I did not break down or berate them, I told them that their task as individuals is to consider issues of justice, injustice, and consider their roles and views on issues, such as this.

I walked out of the class disoriented. I could not believe individuals could be so apathetic or indifferent to something of such import. For me, questions of justice and injustice – both in the immediate moment and the residue from the past – as well as the ways individuals connect to wider systems are the fundamental questions that frame my research and in many ways, inspire me to teach. “How could I fail to inspire students to recognize the importance or even get them to offer any reflections on such an issue?” In a way, this was both about what happened in the classroom and about so much more.

I’ve done a lot of reflection on that session with valuable assistance and input from several people. I’ve pondered those questions: “what went wrong?” and “what could I have done better?”

This leads me to the main reason for the above reflection: the more we as instructors situate our voices and ourselves in the courses we teach, the more those “hiccups”, shortcomings, or failures affect us. Those moments of silence are seared into my memory, but this simple fact also makes them incredible opportunities to retool my approach.

Yet in wrestling with the approach to the next session, I do not want the megachange Papert asserts as a remedy. I need to linger on those shortcomings (not throw everything out (although sometimes that may be necessary)), and continue to explore ways that may provide the meaningful engagement I seek. Occasional shortcomings and failures in the classroom are the natural order of things for instructors – not merely because we may be stretched extremely thin because we take four grad classes and sit in on a fifth – but the failures also represent the most powerful learning experiences. We cannot just discard those shortcomings, we need to dwell on them for a moment to recalibrate (and do so again and again) until we reach the desired results in the classroom. In this way, discovering our “authentic teaching voice” is (perhaps a never-ending) iterative process.

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