Ground Rules for Teaching
Outside of my consulting practice, I was an adjunct instructor of business law at a community college for over ten years. These are some ground rules that I would pass along to other instructors.
- Although you will learn a great deal about a subject by teaching it, never forget that the class is meant for the students, not the instructor. They are not a nuisance. They are your reason for being there.
- You are supposed to be an ally, not an adversary.
- Your job is to simplify and translate, not complicate. Curb the jargon.
- Showmanship helps, but showing off doesn't.
- Essays should be read very carefully. Some students know how to write essays that are easy to grade. Others may pen essays that are less smooth but if you look carefully they contain all of the answers. An instructor who does not take the time to be careful may be giving a C or even a D to an A student.
- If you have a few students who don't do well, the problem is probably with them. If you have many who don't do well, the problem is with you.
- Be especially sensitive to any aspects that they find difficult to understand. Use a variety of explanations to get the material across. Remember that what clicks for some may not click for all.
- If a student is not grasping the material, don't assume that the person isn't studying hard enough. It may simply be that the individual reasons differently. Check the reasoning.
- Don't have petty rules. Students have lives and problems outside of your class. You'll encounter some manipulators but they are a small percentage.
- Know your hot buttons and biases. Don't let them cloud your judgment.
- Recognize that your words are carefully studied and remembered. Let your praise be meaningful and don't make a thoughtless remark that will haunt them for years.
- Act your age. They are not pals or peers. They are students. Their job is to learn. Your job is to teach. The relationship should be one of mutual respect.