If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day; if you teach him how to fish, he eats for a life.
A Chinese Proverb
I have a passion for teaching, though I am not much of a fisherman. Life is too short to waste doing anything less than helping to build solid foundations in the lives of others. I long to see students grow not merely in knowledge, but in experience—in Life. The learning must extend beyond the classroom, and beyond the academy days of college, or any given semester. It must extend into a chosen career and beyond. I long to be a fork in a student’s road—one in which the student is pointed toward the important things of life. I see teaching as a strategic assignment at that fork. It is as a valuable opportunity to give a gift of knowledge and understanding. This will not happen by accident, but must be intentional. The goals of my teaching at the university level are three-fold:
Teach Important Principles of Automatic Control Systems
Since my area is that of Automatic Control Systems, the first goal is that my teaching will support that area. Mathematical rigor and empirical handiness must be integrated into the thinking pattern of the engineer. Both must be faced with equal bravery. Alignment between hands-on experiments and homework assignments will be made
The field will continue to grow, and so the material must change to reflect that change. Attention will be given to ensuring that this is actually taking place by applying feedback to the teaching mechanism. Assessment will form a vital basis for this feedback. Research-based assessment methods will be explored and implemented as appropriate.
Impart Principles of Life Long Learning
The second goal is the support of learning for the long haul. When a student graduates and enters the work force, the new employee soon learns that the education was only the beginning of learning. Learning how to learn is thus a key that will unlock many doors for the progressing individual. This goes beyond the classroom setting. It takes place not only through coursework, but in individual discussions during office hours, or even in the hallways. This “outside-the-box” approach will require an on-going cultivation of the students so that they can receive and process thinking at higher levels.
Continue to Grow and Develop as a Teacher
Research continues to provide insight into new and innovative ways of effectively delivering new content to students. Whether it includes multimedia resources, active learning strategies, or any number of pedagogical techniques, my teaching tactics will continually adapt to optimize learning based on these techniques. This process will never be complete, but will require continual adaptation and refinement. I not only want to grow, but to to become exceptional as a teacher. I would like to get to the point of documenting my teaching effectiveness in quantitative ways.
Overall, as a teacher, I want to work toward seeing the “light bulbs” turn on for my students and grow brighter. I hope that my passion, enthusiasm, humor, and care will be effective in this. I also hope to be careful lest my efforts go too far. I can’t learn for my students, and need to be careful not to over-teach. I dearly long to impart to students things unforgettable.
• Robert Paz, Electrical & Computer Engineering