The Best Part of Teaching

I was invited to sit on a panel of engineering faculty today, to talk to a class of first year students. We all introduced ourselves, and then we were asked to talk about what gets us going. When you are sitting on a panel, there’s always a moment of panic when you cast about in your mind, looking for something to say that is unique, useful and true. Ah, here we go.

For me, the best part of teaching is learning.

I collect skills. I love learning how to do new things. I’m old enough to have collected a wide range of skills: photography, gardening, coding,  firefighting, folk dancing, (here’s where I stopped speaking, but it’s fun to list them all) data analysis, wiring,  public speaking, kitchen knife skills, electronics assembly, automotive repair, reference chasing, laundry, drumming in odd rhythms, laser repair, WordPress, sewing, teaching, making mustard, plumbing and flow visualization. I’ve never regretted spending the time to learn any of these. I don’t claim expertise in very much, but I can do a lot of different things with basic competence. OK, I can’t really sing, or remember names or faces. But my most important skill that I truly delight in might be how to learn new things.

So now when I teach, that’s what I want to teach: I want my students to learn how to collect a new skill, how to teach themselves, so they can have the pleasure of conquering useful new knowledge, of doing new things.

I’m glad I sat on that panel today. I learned something new about myself.

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