Why I teach

I am both an adjunct college English instructor and a faculty member of the Association of National Advertisers’ School of Marketing. The first is about teaching young adults, the second about teaching marketing professionals, from junior to senior levels. Both require that I make a real connection. Truthfully, I don’t always know if or when that happens.

Today’s essay is lifted from the syllabus I created for all my English classes at Glendale College in Los Angeles, which you can see here dated from 2014. I took advantage of my experience in the advertising business to design something unexpected.

I teach to inspire curiosity.

To provoke it, instill it, awaken it, even re-awaken it. Curiosity is the engine of inquiry, a catalyst of self-awareness, the train-whistle-in-the-dead-of-night that calls you irresistibly to a new adventure. NightTrainsRGB-1160x823

It seems impossible, to me, to be a student of any kind and lack a basic curiosity about the world around you. When I meet someone who appears to care about nothing in particular, I ask myself, “How did this happen?” It is as if this person had lost a limb. Something is missing. Ignite curiosity, give it breathing room and the tools to thrive, and you have given birth to a life-long learner.

Everything begins with a question.

Ask me a question, and I will challenge you to answer it yourself. An answer you offer I will question. Certainties you lay at my feet I will kick away with skepticism. Doubts you raise I will help you explore. My objective is to show you how to hone more penetrating questions, fuel sharper examination, generate deeper understanding.

Wait…this is a writing class? Precisely. Clear writing begins with clear thinking. In my class, you will discover that the Socratic Method drives everything we do, from one-on-one conferences to writing and homework assignments, from group work to class discussions, which I call Socratic Seminars. Even reading assignments couple questions about content with questions about how you read the content. You will be challenged to think about how you think so that you begin to think more clearly about everything. Socrates_Louvre

Not so curiously, you may find yourself in unfamiliar territory, reading authors whose ideas seem foreign, perhaps radically different from your own. You may encounter subject material that challenges long-held beliefs. That is the essence of the college experience. Get used to it.

Every question is welcome. Silence is not. I encourage you to take risks, be courageous, stretch yourself.

I have an unshakeable belief that each student in every class I teach has the capacity to grow and improve.

That means you.

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