I found myself nodding in recognition as I read Aimée Morrison’s article in which she described how she used to teach:
When I began teaching, and for some time after, I used to try to assuage...anxieties [about not succeeding at the hard job of teaching well] by crowding them out with activity. I would prepare 15 pages of lecture notes for an 80-minute class session. I would assign 70 pages of reading for every class meeting so we wouldn’t run out of material. I would cover over any pauses in the discussion with more lecturing, more PowerPoints, more handouts. I had students write research papers and exams and bibliographies and presentations and blog posts and quizzes — just so that it would be clear that I had a plan, and I was in charge, and I was well-prepared, and I knew what I was doing.
Morrison’s article uses yoga as a metaphor, explaining how we often try so hard to teach well --the yoga term is “over-efforting”--that we forget to breathe as we go along. She makes a plea for more breathing space for both teacher and student, more time in which students can learn. She argues for being “less busy but more mindful” in our teaching, so that our classes can be more student-centered and our students more interested and more active, covering less perhaps but learning what is covered in more depth.
That makes sense to me even if it goes against the grain of my built-in need to be 110% prepared for what will happen each moment of each class and each class of the semester. But it seems like an appropriate note on which to end my final Teaching Matters blog. As I enter retirement and work on breathing deeply and evenly--on some nice tropical beach if there is any justice in this universe--I will be thinking of you all, comforted in the knowledge that Lincoln students are flourishing in your capable and caring hands.