I have been fortunate enough to have three different and exceptional faculty members observe my class: Sharon Schmickley, Rose Volynskiy and Mary Gardner. Mary also served as my mentor in the Fall of 2008 and in addition to several observations, met with me to discuss my growth as a teacher. Comments from each are presented below.
Comments: Ms. Furst is very knowledgeable about the subject matter and she presented the course topic in a logical manner, her explanation was clear and easy to understand. She was effective in keeping students focused on objectives and enthusiastic about the cases.
When I reflect upon these observations, I recognize my steps toward growth as a teacher. This fall, I felt as if I overcame a hurdle and am more comfortable in the classroom adapting to a pace that suits the class, encouraging time for reflection and fostering relationships with my students that go well beyond just the delivery of information. I have grown into the role of mentor to some students and a resource for even more. There is a connection that goes beyond the hour and twenty minutes in the classroom. These observations and the subsequent active follow-up--trying new things--have energized me and given me confidence to move from training to teaching.
I was also fortunate over the past three years to observe other master teachers--Sandy Mallare, Linda Wiley and Judith Kizzie. It was a pleasure to watch all of them "in action." The singular similarity between all of them superficially comes down to pace. They all have a comfortable, thoughtful pace to class. Thinking more deeply about it, their pace allows time for a pause between concepts. Some "digestion" of information and processing on the part of the students is encouraged to take place. In my own classroom, I have had to get past the "entertainment" factor in teaching. My enthusiasm will carry some students along, and is indeed what is most often cited as the part of the class that students like best (IDEA survey results). There are times that I feel like stopping allowing some "digestion" to take place though is much more useful--and much more effective as a teacher.
There are two specific examples I'd like to mention. The first was discussed in great detail in my MAPS section of this piece. Pausing after 15 minutes of lecture to have students discuss among themselves what they just heard encourages learning. As I mentioned, it also gives me a chance to engage with students one-on-one while still in class. The second example is something I tried and felt like succeeded at the end of the fall 2009 semester. The last day of class, I discussed with students that we started the semester by talking about learning styles. I explained that they learned a few terms and concepts in business that would re-surface in many different business classes thoughout their college career. However, I wanted them to reflect on something much more important...what did they learn about how they learn? I asked them to send themselves a text message that answered the question. Their reflection should take the perspective "if I knew then what I know now, what would I do differently?" I must admit that I thought this was a touchy-feely exercise that had just as much chance to blow up as to succeed. I was very pleased when the students got really quiet. They thought about their answers. They took time to text themselves. They even wanted to share their responses! To me, this experience was indicative that I helped them learn something with real meaning.
If I think about teachers that touched me deeply, Dr. Doris Van Doren comes to mind. While I had her for various marketing and sales classes undergrad and graduate, I don't really recall learning the "4 Ps of Marketing" or the major ways to close a sale. Dr. Van Doren used self-deprecating humor that made me feel like I was "in" on her joke. She made you want to be with her and enjoy her stories. One of the most important lessons I do remember from her was the time that a client asked her a technical question. She didn't have the answer and asked for a moment, that in fact, she needed to step out of the meeting. She ran back to her office and pulled out a textbook, looked up the answer, and then proceeded back to the meeting. This story has stuck with me for more years than I care to admit. While at Pfizer, I learned (over time) that I didn't have to have all of the answers. It was okay to ask for time to look up the right answer. As a teacher, I feel like I have learned that I might not ever have the right answer...the most important response is the humility to ask for a moment, and think about how all of the minds in the room might come up with the right answer.