Before I was a parent, I never bought into the line “this hurts me more than you.” If I was getting grounded or disciplined, how in the world did it pain my mom more than me? But, as an instructor, the phrase bears a hint of truth. It does hurt me when a student fails, which is why I continue to be a selfish teacher.
My agenda is selfish – I want to grow and learn, too, and failure is not an option.
This is why every semester I enter the classroom with learning goals for my students. We discuss these at length in the beginning and then I set out to teach the course based on the goals. My goals are selfish – identified by specific traits that I believe will help them succeed as writers, students, and journalists. These goals benefit me, too – I want to clearly see progress, growth, and effort.
We dive into English Composition with one essay after another, with hopes to recognize and improve processes. We dive into the ethical and legal guidelines of student media, with hopes to change and inform the community.
Together, we set standards, goals, and trudge forward to improve our craft. I’m selfish and they are selfish. I want proof that the course improved their learning and they want a grade and an experience worth the cost of higher education.
I must be selfish in order to teach effectively. I must demand that students meet deadlines and adhere to the guidelines of each assignment. I must demand that all work is “college level” and professional. I must also demand accountability – either do the work or suffer the consequences of lower grades and missed material.
Selfishness in teaching is a productive means to motivate others. We push the course material, demand revisions, and enforce deadlines that adhere to our preferences. We expect excellence and do not (or should not) accept anything less.
These selfish guidelines keep me in check, too. If I am demanding excellence from my students, then I have to provide an example of excellence. My selfish teaching agenda forces me to improve my teaching methods and challenges me to adapt my teaching style to the learning styles of all students. It puts me to work and motivates me – an intentional, selfish goal that I set each semester for myself.
For some, teaching is a means to pay the bills. For others, it is a chance to give something back. I teach for these reasons, too, but even more so, I teach because I’m selfish.
– Shannon Philpott
Blog Entry: Dec. 9, 2009
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