How to teach by sharing your passion
We've all had awful teachers. Admit it, they were dull, dull, dull. Their subjects were dull, and they would proudly announce that they were dull, and that the class would be dull. And they were dull, maybe even duller than they needed to be. And it made me wonder why someone who considered a subject that they taught to be so dull would be doing it?
Of course the answer is that no subject is dull to someone who cares about it. I've listened to people on their favorite subject, no matter how appallingly dull it is to me, and they speak with enthusiasm, with what I call a "glittering eye". There are a LOT of subjects which I consider dull, including but not limited to: stamp collecting, fishing, watching football, glaciers, standing in line, and comparing the relative merits of sushi bars.
So if you've been asked to teach something, I beg of you: don't tell me how dull it is, show me your passion. It may be embarrassing for you, but it's what you've gotta do. This is how to do it:
• Stand up and admit that you are fascinated by the subject. Most people are too weak to do this, and so they apologize at how dull the subject will be. I see you nodding your head, you've heard this. Personally, I'm passionate about Graphic Design. I care about typography. To me, there is a difference between Arial and Helvetica. I cringe when I see inch marks instead of quotation marks, or if the kerning is poor. I've spent hours fiddling with code on web pages, I've spent my life caring about what I do.
• Give your students the benefit of the doubt. If you make the assumption that everyone in the class is going to hate the subject, and consider it (and you) dull, you're insulting the people. Maybe not everyone, but there's gonna be many people who always wanted to know about the subject you're teaching, who really want to understand it, to get better. If you make fun of the subject, you're making fun of the very best people in your class. Don't do that.
• Show your passion. I remember my painting teacher got so emotional while talking about his art that at times he could barely get the words out. He often just stopped, smiled, and said, "Ahhh!", which is how he expressed his joy. Human beings pick up on emotion. I know I got upset about things, but a ligature gives me joy. Here's my favorite: Phœnix. Dang, I love that!
We all remember great teachers. They may not have been the most organized, they might have looked bewildered at times, and forgot what they were talking about in the middle of a lecture. But they cared enough to show their passion for the subject, they didn't apologize. Be that teacher.
Posted by Brad Hall