I teach to help young adults mature in their thinking about the world and themselves. I also want to empower them by example to take responsibility for their educational results. These goals require my students to grapple with new concepts and negative emotions when their prior assumptions fail them; the bravery of teaching is in part the instructor's willingness to accompany students during serious, even fatal, challenges to their long-held beliefs. Summarized negatively, I envision teaching to be the art of preventing superficial, strategic learning for short-term benefits.
Teachers cannot lead students through these illuminating if painful learning experiences unless they are convinced, as I am, that students are capable learners craving growth in spite of significant hurdles and impediments. Thus I expect great (though not superhuman) things of my students and hold myself to the same high standards.
The foregoing describes education as a rather unpleasant affair in the short run, and there is indeed even more reason to believe this: as a teacher, I must take into account the vast array of learning styles, unique perspectives, and both predictable and novel challenges most students face.
Successful teaching therefore also requires creativity, flexibility, and perpetual openness. Although learning objectives may be concrete, one's pedagogical strategies and techniques are necessarily provisional, being and remaining only as useful as they are effective at creating an optimal learning environment. Excellent teachers are therefore humble in their trade and always aware that the roles of student and teacher are fluid. back