I am writing this week from the annual meeting of the American Accounting Association in San Francisco. On Monday, I had one of those wonderful experiences that I so enjoy, the type that always seems to rejuvenate my teaching spirits. I had a long conversation with a person who really knew and understood how to be a great teacher. I find, in colleges, that there are not enough times when you sit down with another teacher and just talk about teaching: What works? What do you do in this situation? How do you handle this topic?
I had never met David Marcinko before Monday but he is on the faculty at Skidmore. As soon as we sat down and started talking about Financial Accounting, it was clear that Professor Marcinko had spent a lot of serious time over the years thinking about teaching. How do you get students engaged? What should you cover in the first chapter to interest them and not turn them off? When do you introduce Accumulated Depreciation without confusing them?
Teaching can be a lonely profession. Professors will talk about their research until the cows come home (a wonderful Southern expression) but it is often hard to find someone who will talk with you about teaching (other than whining about their students). Sometimes it seems like a mark of weakness to open up about the difficulty of getting students to work and learn. I was amazed, even our 39 years, as to how energized I felt about teaching after I walked away from our conversation on Monday.
Maybe, if you are feeling a bit down about being a teacher, finding a colleague to talk with on a regular basis might just be the remedy.