Instructors should inspire enthusiasm and empower students, speaker says
By Adriana Ruiz
Getting to know students as people by sharing interests and hobbies is a good way to make them feel comfortable, Laura Lawrence, director, instructional and professional development at Northwest Vista College, said Thursday in Room 712 of Moody Learning Center. Her workshop, “The Extraordinary Instructor,” was part of Teaching with Technology Convocation 2014, a weeklong series of lectures for faculty.
Lawrence said the first step in becoming an extraordinary instructor is to create a social presence. She started off the presentation with a photograph of Jackie Claunch, former president of Northwest Vista College, posing with bikes next to a sign in Gaelic, Ireland.
“How cool is that? If that’s your teacher,” Lawrence said. “Creating a social presence recognizes that regardless of our role for this particular time or day or class period or whatever, at the bottom of it all we are all people.”
Lawrence asked everyone to remember their favorite instructor and to think about their best characteristics.
Lawrence said her best teacher was her high school band director, Mr. Anderson, a former Marine drill sergeant. She said he was tough and demanding but also very caring and fair. She said he shared bits of personal information about himself that made him a real person to his students.
“I can tell you his wife’s name is Debbie, they had their first daughter when I was a senior and he drove an ugly little square beige Fiat that he jokingly called his Italian sports car,” Lawrence said. “He was a real person to me.”
Lawrence said having clear and high expectations is good for students. She said don’t be afraid to set the expectation high because students usually say their best teachers were also their toughest.
History adjunct Tony Magnon said he met his best instructor while getting his graduate degree. Magnon said he attempted to drop the course after his instructor insulted his first essay and wrote “garbage” and “where did you do your undergraduate work?” in red pen all over his essay. He said his instructor refused to let him drop the course and instead encouraged him to read the essay carefully and learn from his mistakes.
“Thank God for that professor today that he would not let me drop,” Magnon said.
Lawrence said she would not recommend instructors be so blunt to their students but instead make expectations clear.
Lawrence said getting excited during a lecture would get students excited as well. She referenced the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and quoted Ben Stein’s character of the boring teacher attempting to teach economics to the class.
“If you ever find yourself in that role, it’s time to do something differently,” Lawrence said. “Find that inner excitement and make the class successful.”
She recalled sitting in a physics course in college with her professor Steve Brown, whom she compared to Robin Williams’ character Mork from an American sitcom called “Mork and Mindy.”
Lawrence said her professor was so enthusiastic about physics he decided the class was going to break the “Guinness Book of World Records” for the number of human beings through which an electrical current can flow.
“As it turned out we broke the world record but we didn’t have a Guinness Book person there to verify it,” Lawrence said. “But I now understand how electrical current flows through a solid object like a body because of something Steve Brown did 30 years ago.”
Lawrence said learning names, empowering students and waiting for answers are other helpful tips on how to become an extraordinary instructor.
Friday’s hourlong workshops are “Copyright, OER, and Fair Use-Clear as Mud” at 9 a.m., “Success in Online Teaching – Quality Matters” at 2 p.m. and “BioSig Training” at 3 p.m., all in Room 712 of Moody Learning Center. An online workshop, “Blackboard Collaborate,” is from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Faculty can register on AlamoLearn through ACES. For more information call 210-486-0030 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.