The idea of starting this teaching journal occurred to me after reflecting upon a poor answer I gave during a job interview. The question was, "Can you please tell us how you address students who are having a difficult time learning in your class?" I couldn't think of a good answer. I've had plenty of students who struggled and overcame their difficulties with my help but I drew a serious blank. I thought about it for a while after the interview and still had no luck thinking of any specific anecdotal evidence of such an event. I ran into a former student and asked him what I did when he had trouble. Basically he told me two things, #1 I am persistent, and #2 the third way I explained a certain drawing problem was better than the first two.
The question and subsequent student interview made me realize the importance of self-awareness in my teaching practice. This week I became aware of a deficiency in my approach to teaching. Like so many of my weaknesses this deficiency has its origin in one of my greatest strengths: having my blinders on. I tend to be hyper-focused, diving deeply into subject matter that I'm teaching. I cultivate my interest by research, following each strand or clue to the next bit of information. I find the pursuit of knowledge fun, beautiful and exhilarating. This last week I taught a unit on balance describing radial symmetry, reflection symmetry, asymmetrical balance, and imbalance. The students were to make designs illustrating each of these concepts. I found an essay on symmetry from Architect Greg Lynn, who basically posits a theory that symmetry is a system based on a lack of information reproducing itself in mirror, similar to what happens in teratology (study of birth defects) - think two headed snake. I found this a fascinating idea especially because I have always taken the more common approach to bilateral symmetry, one that expresses beauty and good genetic reproduction. I employed these concepts in explaining bilateral symmetry to my students with diagrams, a PowerPoint presentation etc.. In my newfound zeal for considering bilateral symmetry from a greater depth I failed to adequately address the concept of radial symmetry, leading to assignments that were not done as well as they could have been. My hyper-focus on the details of one topic limited my ability to address the assignment in a holistic way. I'm hoping that my newfound awareness will make it less likely that I repeat my mistake.