He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader - Aristotle
I am always learning new things. What I am learning has shifted over time, but I am always learning regardless. Sometimes it’s a new programming language, sometimes a new framework, or sometimes just diving deeper into the dark corners of the tools that I use to improve the efficiency and reliability of my work flows. I’ve heard that the day one stops learning new things is the day one becomes out-of-date. I think it’s deeper than that for teachers though. The day one stops learning is the day one becomes out-of-touch.
I had bad teachers and good teachers during my tenure as student. I thought, “If I were teaching, I’d never…”, or “I’d always…”. But then I graduated. I think it’s easy to stop having those thoughts and making those resolutions. In time, one has a harder and harder time relating to students because one is no longer learning. One way to avoid this is to never stop being a student. I shall never stop being a student.
I like to code. Scratch that, I love to code. I write code all day for work and then do things like Project Euler and Advent of Code in the evening for fun. I write code in the classroom. I don’t think a static block of code on a PowerPoint slide does much to walk students through the process of thinking about code. I use notes and slides as a general lecture outline but draw my solutions on the board before coding live during class. This does a few things. It helps students feel the process. It unearths aspects of debugging that I use and allows the class to problem solve together before trying to do things on their own. Possibly most importantly though, it ensures that the lecture is dynamic. By having dynamic, process-oriented lectures, students feel engaged and we all grow together each session.
I always have realistic, clear, and verbose goals for myself, the class (as a whole), and the students (as individuals). This means making a syllabus that is easy to follow and then sticking to it. I believe that not stretching to do too many things allows for time in every lecture to cover important questions as they arise. If time is available at the end of a lecture, there are always things to talk about that can benefit the students such as interview techniques, reviews, or other practical career advice.
Lastly, I just try to be myself. I am a very casual, relaxed person and generally my students feel like they can talk to me. Being approachable and open can set students up to get over a crux that might be preventing them from proceeding along with the class. I foster an environment wherein students can feel like they will be heard, and that any and all questions they have should be asked to ensure all of our collective success.
I served in either part-time (15 years) or full-time (6.5 years) capacities in the US Navy for my entire adult life until fall of 2017. Even with all of its flaws, I loved the Navy. One thing that the military does better than any other organization I have ever known is guarantee equal ground for all to stand on. I have served alongside, and led sailors of all races, genders, creeds, economic backgrounds, and education levels, for over twenty years. Pay rates are mandated based solely on rank and promotions occur based on tests and job performance. I have seen every unit I’ve been a part of grow as a direct result of every member of the unit being an equal member of the family.
Individual variance within any group is far greater than any observed or supposed differences between the groups themselves. I’ve found that basing my attitudes about individuals based on anything except their merits does everyone involved a disservice and is not something I practice or tolerate.