Friday, November 18, 2016

Pride in teaching

SCENE 1: to the victor the spoils, to the curious the puzzles

Interior hallway, mid-day. LILA is walking purposefully to a meeting.

STUDENT 1: Will you be around later? I think I solved that puzzle you told me but I want to check and see if you can break it with more counterexamples.

STUDENT 2: How are you giving out secret puzzles? This seems unfair.

LILA: Anyone can come ask me for puzzles, I have a lot of problems I want to solve. Come to my office hours!

SCENE 2: wherein educational goals are satisfied

The scene is set: office hours, Friday afternoon. The campus is quiet as students flee for the weekend. Only the truly education-seeking students remain, winnowed down to their scholarly core.

ENTER a student.

STUDENT: I am confused about topic X which we learned two weeks ago. I remember it was confusing then and I'm not sure what to ask you, but I'm confused.

LILA: [quick explanation of topic X, reframed in terms of what we've done in the past two weeks]

STUDENT: Oh, it seems so simple now! I have no idea how I was ever confused, this is totally straightforward and easy.

LILA explodes in delight and absolute teaching fulfillment. Bystanders are scalded by beams of pure joy, campus security must be called, paramedics are deployed, the area is cordoned off and several students are rushed to emergency medical services.

Only two. weeks. ago. Two weeks! I think that when students start to review the material from the first half of the semester, they will be struck by how far they've advanced their understanding, and how easy (in retrospect only!) those problems seem now.

This post's theme word is noesis (n), "cognition; perception," or "the exercise of reason." Watching a new noeisis hatch and develop is uniquely pedagogically satisfying.