Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Good Teaching: A Pleasant Reminder

I went to Wegmans about an hour ago to get a few meals from the prepared foods section. It's an easy way to have a variety of meats and vegetables in the fridge ready for the family. I like to cook but I'm unlikely to devote a portion of a typical day to cooking ribs, green beans, yams, roasted cauliflower, and potato salad (the foods I obtained today). Anyway, in going through the line an experienced worker fielded my order and then walked her co-worker through the process of filling the order. It's not a simple matter of heaping foods into a container as fast as possible (which I might be tempted to do as a worker). The experienced worker was specific in explaining the approximate portion size of each food and how it should be placed in the container. She showed her co-worker how to print a price sticker for the container. She worked in a few other tidbits related to the process, all while making eye contact with me and her co-worker. She did all of this with enthusiasm. I didn't sense any phoniness or forced corporate energy. It seemed to me the worker cares about her job and takes it seriously. She gave me a great illustration of what it looks like to treat a co-worker with respect.

All through the interaction I bit my tongue and refrained from saying to the less experienced worker "You have a good teacher there." I have a habit of blurting out things and making basic observations in public. I wanted to offer the compliment out loud, but decided to shut up. And here I am an hour later blogging about it. Point being, it would have been easy for the experienced worker to go through the motions of the task in a miserable fashion. The experienced worker could have talked too fast, or talked down to her co-worker, or have been rude to me and/or her co-worker. Instead, the veteran worker did the job and did it well with patience and a good attitude. It was a pleasant reminder of how to behave in the college classroom as a teacher. As a professor, I need to explain things well, do it with patience, and do it without going through the motions. Enjoy each small teaching moment as if it's the first time I've done it. Convey knowledge without talking down to students. And hugely important, treat my students with the respect and dignity they deserve.

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