I love to teach. My methods are designed with the hope that my students catch the "excitement bug" of learning about the natural world. To this end, my classes are constructed to be both challenging and enjoyable, balancing textbook and lecture materials with occasional jokes, cartoons, and anecdotes. Classroom management requires benevolent control by the instructor to ensure a learning environment that is quiet, focused, and attentive while also encouraging student questions and relevant comments. Science is often reduced to students memorizing facts, numbers, and definitions. I prefer my students conceptualize and develop ideas. Therefore, on exams and quizzes, a range of methods to measure comprehension are utilized, such as multiple choice, definitions, true/false, and fill in the blank. Short answer and essay questions balance these objective methods and give the students a chance to show that they are thinking and grasping broader concepts. Homework, in class assignments, and lab exercises allow students to learn concepts at their own pace.
Teaching and learning is not confined only to formal class sessions. Field trips (locally and abroad) and fieldwork are an integral part of natural science education, allowing students to experience “hands on” use of the skills acquired in the classroom. Conducting research (both lab and field based) allows students to be involved in projects and learning experiences they themselves develop. This can lead to a lifetime of explorations, with students later becoming colleagues as they develop their own professional careers. This experience reaches its pinnacle when students are involved in a professor’s personal research and can be a part of peer reviewed publication and/or conference presentations.
As Sir Francis Bacon noted, “knowledge is power”. If a teacher uses that power responsibly, the positive impact can extend well beyond the semester and the walls of the lecture hall. The potential exists for students to take away a lifelong passion for learning, ability to think independently, and the desire to teach others. Students can then take the lessons they have learned and impart them on others as they move through their own lives and careers. The professor therefore has the opportunity to influence multiple generations of scientific investigation, academic thought, societal opinion, and personal responsibility. Such an opportunity must be respected, recognized for its importance, and greatly enjoyed.
Finally, a teacher must continue to themselves learn. This learning can come from conducting research, attending conferences, publication, teaching a new class, and the students themselves. So many minds exploring ideas and developing intellectually is contagious and invigorating.
Ultimately, I am most interested in providing an environment in which students desire to learn and feel encouraged to develop intellectually while still having a good time. If that is established, the rest will usually fall into place.