Statement of Teaching Philosophy
About being a teacher
As a leader cannot lead without a follower, so a person cannot be a called a "teacher" if he/she does not have a student. A "teacher" is not merely a title given by a job contract but also the role that a person takes consciously. Therefore, being a teacher is playing one of many roles in daily life and the people a teacher serves are those who are playing a role called "student." If nobody wants to learn with a teacher, a teacher is not playing a role of teacher.
Since being a teacher is just like playing a role, here are my premises of playing this role well. First, a teacher is a good listener who is always sincerely listening to questions and responding in a proper manner. A good listener does not need to know everything and provide solutions immediately, but he/she is willing to spend time and energy for the students.
Second, a teacher is willing to update himself about the knowledge in his/her professional field. Publicly and privately, he/she is willing to share with his/her colleague(s) and student(s) what is new in his research and the cutting-edge research of his/her interest. Based on the updated information, he/she is capable to advice students with respect to their career paths.
Third, a teacher talks more "why" than "what" questions.While encouraging students to discover facts by themselves, a teacher seldom relies his/her teaching material completely on a certain textbook. Instead, he/she is able to use his/her words to explain the links and relationships between the facts.
Fourth, a teacher is not managing students' grades but their brains. He/she always finds chances to challenge students with deeper and philosophical questions, especially those beyond textbooks and news reports. For a professor specifically, a noble mission is to resolve myths for students and the society.
Fifth and finally, a teacher not only needs how to be a teacher but also helps students to be students. The student-teacher relationship is built on the two-way interaction: while a teacher is willing to pass what he/she has learned in a way that serves the need of the student, a student is responsible to develop and maintain curiosity and desire to learn and to solve problems. If a student fails to learn actively, a teacher is willing to guide the student to learn how to learn.
About in-class communication
The process of learning is as important as the results of learning. A teacher is not a person hired to manage and report grades of students; the most important role for a teacher is communication in the process of learning. To achieve this goal, a teacher will pay attention to the setting of rules and environment for communication in and after classes.
First, in the first class a teacher surveys students' expectation on class topics and adjust course materials later on to meet their needs during the semester. This is not a sacrifice of a teacher's profession but an echo to students (as representatives of societal expectation on experts in this field).
Second, a teacher use multi-media to assist lectures. The purpose is to allow a teacher pay more attention to oral communication rather than to texts. It also frees students from taking notes and pay attention to learning.
Third, a teacher tries to give some time for students to raise questions related to the topics discussed in class. This may stimulate other students' attention and get a teacher an immediate feedback the part he/she did not cover well.
Fourth, a teacher in political science does not need to avoid talking politics. He/she can hold neutral stances about political issues, but he/she is willing to make links between the class materials to the real world issues. Most importantly, he/she actively tells students generally how the discipline sees those issues.
Fifth, for off-class communication, a teacher uses online communication to help quiet students. He/she has an effective way to communicate student online but does not sacrifice much personal time on it.
Pleasing students is not a teacher's job. A teacher communicates with students the purpose of assignments and quizzes. If the materials are important, a teacher requires students to read carefully and gives quizzes in class. This ensures the effectiveness of in-class learning. Students do not like tests, but testing is the characteristic a teacher can use to stimulate students to learn.
A teacher gives assignments based on weekly topics. Beyond this, a teacher by assignments encourages students to link what they have learned to what they experience in daily life. An ultimate goal of education is that students can link what they have learned in class to the problems or issues they face after graduation. A teacher gives assignments based on this purpose. To enhance impression on materials and to deepen the learning process off class, a teacher periodically gives demanding assignments. Not seeing tough assignments as a punishment, he/she also encourages students to think positively about such kind of "suffering."
Grades are effective tools to rein students, but they only function on campus. A teacher gives a student an impression or a lesson that "I expect you to get an A, but you should realize that it is your attitude of learning that earns you self an A." As it is difficult to measure students' performance beyond exams, a teacher weights on weekly assignments or in-class performance. If class is small, a teacher gives students individual evaluation and emphasizes personal progress and achievement. Students in my class will finally learn that grade A does not necessary bring their life a success, their attitudes will.
Grades is not a utility for a teacher to make "good students" to exaggerate their ability or to belittle "bad students" who cannot make good grades. Under the current education system, a teacher cannot do much for the first type of students, but he/she can help the second group of students by tracking their performance and give timely warning to bring them back to the track.