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  • I think my enthusiasm was probably born into me.

  • It’s not something that I ever chose and

  • when I started teaching I didn’t really

  • think it was that important.

  • I thought it was most important to have a

  • deep understanding of the material and so

  • for my first class I prepared by reading

  • a bunch of graduate textbooks on the topic,

  • which turned out to be of no help whatsoever.

  • And when those course evaluations came back,

  • that’s what really struck me is that the students

  • rated my enthusiasm very highly, and

  • I hadn’t even thought I was very enthusiastic.

  • I think it just comes out naturally in

  • how I feel about the topic.

  • Since then I’ve decided that it’s a great way

  • to keep people with me and that’s why I do it.

  • That’s why I don’t try and keep my own

  • enthusiasm down, because I know different

  • teachers have different styles, and I think

  • sometimes I’m a little over the top for some

  • students; but it’s the only way I know to

  • keep people on board with what I’m saying.

  • And I do really love what I do, now that I’ve had

  • a chance to advise students and see what happens

  • to them in their lives I’m always sad when I see

  • a student change his or her major because

  • he or she wasn’t getting As in it.

  • And I love physics, I love astronomy, I always have,

  • and that’s what keeps me coming back every day

  • and what keeps me going into the classroom.

  • So, for me, it’s like air, it’s a part of my life.

  • I think that enthusiasm is different than entertaining.

  • What I’m passionate about is the

  • material that I’m teaching.

  • I’m not passionate about me, and I’m not

  • passionate about the students, this sounds terrible,

  • doesn’t it, but I think that if I really cared

  • about how they were experiencing moment

  • to moment I would tell more jokes.

  • I love telling jokes, I love making people laugh,

  • and I do have to try not to overdo that.

  • What I am most passionate about is actually

  • the physics; and I want people to learn, but

  • I want people to learn it because I love it,

  • because I think that it’s fascinating and

  • interesting, and wonderful; it’s intellectual food

  • that I can’t live without.

  • So I think for me the difference is that my

  • number 1 priority that I’m trying to convey

  • is my enthusiasm about the material.

  • So I’ll put myself in a bad light.

  • I’ll make the students uncomfortable.

  • I’ll do whatever I have to do because it’s

  • the material that actually comes first for me.

  • You know, Astronomy 103 is a great example

  • of what the challenges are.

  • It’s a great class because people

  • don’t know what to expect.

  • What they think it’s going to be coming in is

  • not what it is, and it’s a great story to tell.

  • The story of how we know what the insides of stars

  • are like is a story I will never get tired of telling.

  • It absolutely knocks my socks off

  • every single time, and I love it.

  • But it’s 150 people and the only way to

  • learn science is to do science, and science

  • involves measurement, it involves math.

  • And there’s absolutely no way around that,

  • and these are folks who don’t want to see math,

  • they don’t want to talk about measurement,

  • and it can be really hard.

  • It’s a lot of grading, it’s a lot of bookkeeping,

  • and when you have 150 students some fraction

  • of them get sick or they have a personal tragedy

  • or they don’t like me and they come and yell at me

  • or we end up talking about what the grade’s

  • going to be and redoing this and something

  • doesn’t work and the website goes down, and all

  • of the logistics can take some of the joy out of it.

  • What amazes me the most is that every time

  • I walk into a classroom and I think, “I’m tired,

  • you know, I can’t get up for this today.” I do.

  • Every single time, and every fall when I’m shaking

  • in my boots, and I’ve been teaching

  • for 10 years now, I’m shaking in my boots

  • walking into that classroom and I think,

  • “I’m not going to remember how to do this.”

  • It comes back to me the minute I walk in

  • that classroom every single time.

  • And I always walk in thinking “I probably

  • don’t have enough to talk about today.

  • I’ll let them go early.”

  • I think in 10 years I’ve never let a class go early.

  • And that’s what makes it great for me,

  • is the classroom, that environment, I love.

  • And I will be sad if the day comes that we decide

  • as an academic community that the classroom

  • has no role in education, because to me there are

  • magical things that happen in the classroom

  • that don’t happen any place else.

  • And some of my best ideas, some of the things that

  • have worked the greatest were improv, in the moment.

  • And I don’t know any other place like it.

  • Well, definitely trying new things.

  • I’m always trying new things, sometimes to keep

  • my enthusiasm running, a lot of times by necessity.

  • That’s not to say that it’s not a little

  • rough around the edges sometimes; it is,

  • and you know, experiments don’t always pan out.

  • But I think it gives me the sense that I’m down

  • in the trenches with the students, and when

  • it doesn’t work I’m just as bummed as they are

  • and I want them to learn, and when it works,

  • when I ask a hard question and a flood of right

  • answers comes back I mean that’s fantastic for me

  • because I’m right down there with them.

  • When my teaching gets not fun, when I know it’s

  • not effective is when I’m just doing something

  • I’ve already done, when I’m not really engaged,

  • so I keep myself engaged by trying new stuff.

  • I got Cs in physics as an undergrad, like more than one;

  • and at one point I had the lowest grade in the class.

  • And I got As in a lot of other stuff, and no one

  • would have blamed me for changing my major,

  • and I didn’t because I love physics in a way that

  • I never really loved anything else, and life is long,

  • youve got to do something you like.

  • I mean, I could teach people to do something else,

  • I could teach them how to make a pie or ride a bike

  • or something and I think I’d probably be

  • pretty good at that, but I couldn’t do it day in

  • and day out, I couldn’t sit up late grading exams

  • for that, because I’m just not passionate about it.

I think my enthusiasm was probably born into me.

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A2 enthusiasm classroom passionate love teaching single time

Teaching with Enthusiasm

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    Dada Lu posted on 2013/11/05
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