To my colleagues:
Many years after I started my teaching career, I started to question my own approach to teaching. When I took on the mission of starting an office of learning and teaching, I learned to approach teaching and learning developmentally: as an interaction of student development and faculty development – a dialectic process that will always be ‘new’. That experience changed the way I looked at college teaching, especially my own. In the following years, I became intrigued with and passionate about the idea that students who walk into a college classroom should walk out of there after they truly learned something. These days, it is not enough for me to explain something really well. It is more important for me that my students can do the explaining because they have truly learned the material.
My own experience in teaching is still evolving. When I get it right, some learning happens in the classroom. When learning happens, there is excitement in a classroom that is palpable. There are challenges to the students and to the teacher to learn more, to ask more, to produce more, and to think more. The joy of learning is not lost on the students. Their daily accomplishments become our endless motivation to teach.
My goal for faculty development when I started working at KOLT was to start a conversation on teaching and learning among the faculty. Once we are thinking and conversing, we will be asking questions about our teaching, we will be seeking answers to those questions, and we will be experimenting to see if our answers hold up. That thinking and conversing has the potential to lift our classrooms from mere lecture halls to spaces where real learning takes place.
I hope that conversations on teaching and learning will never stop at KU.
To KU students:
It is difficult to make the transition into being a college student. In addition to new and difficult academic expectations, you face a whole new life style with a whole new set of responsibilities and difficulties. When all aspects of your life are changing, it is natural that you will need a lot of help and support. Ironically, you probably expected that your entry at KU would be the end of much of your struggles, since entry into KU required a lot of hard work and dedication.
I worked to make KOLT into a place at KU where you will feel welcome, regardless of the source of your difficulties, concerns or worries. There are peers, TAs and staff at KOLT to help you feel welcome, encourage you, and work side-by-side with you as you find alternative solutions to your concerns. KOLT does not offer “one size fits all” solutions. KOLT is where you find partners to generate solutions with you. All we ask of you is to come in.
I hope that you will keep coming into the KOLT offices and give us the privilege to work with you. I hope that you will help your friends find their way into our offices at times when they need a willing and supportive partner.
May your KU years be happy, healthy, and academically fulfilling.
Transition into being a college student may have been a difficult experience, but it probably pales in comparison to the transition into being a graduate student, being a teacher, and being a researcher, all at the same time. It can be intimidating to find yourself in a room full of college students and realizing at once that you will not be comfortably sitting in one of those seats; that you are supposed to be the person who is “in charge”.
Hundreds of questions may be distracting you like Christmas lights in your mind: How am I going to convince them that I am the teacher? How am I going to get their attention? How should they address me? What if they ask something I don’t know? If I write everything down, will they understand better? How am I supposed to grade this assignment? Shall I ignore this noise, or shall I react to it? This problem seems too easy, isn’t it? What if all of my students fail this topic in the mid-term? What if I forget the formula and have to look it up in the middle of the session? What if someone finds my mistake in this answer? Should I be repeating the lecture in the beginning of the lab? How can I let my faculty know that I am not comfortable solving the problems this way? How am I going to prepare for my own final when my students are visiting me all day with their questions? How am I going to find time to read my own assignments and read the textbook of the course that I am the TA for, during the next 24 hours?
At KOLT we have utmost respect to your contribution to undergraduate education. We want to support you in your current TA assignments, and help you prepare for your future academic career as a member of the faculty. I hope that KOLT can help you experience and enjoy that magic moment in teaching when you see that your students really mastered something worth knowing which they did not know before.
Being a TA starts you on a long journey to seek many different ways of helping students effectively as they work to learn. KOLT will always be happy to start this journey with you.