I believe that if an instructor truly enjoys what he or she is doing, and is enthusiastic and excited about the subject, then that enthusiasm can be infectious and with any luck many of the student’s will catch it too. Also, the best teachers I’ve had had a gift for knowing just how much information to give and how much to ask the student to find out. I don’t think I have that gift, but it is something I continually work on. The key is to help students get excited themselves about the subject, to want to learn more, to push beyond what is covered in the classroom.
I feel privileged to teach at a liberal arts institution because I strongly believe in the value of a liberal arts education. Yes, we want to help develop competent computer scientists but we also want to have our students know that there is far more to life than being able to move bits and bytes hither and yon. As a liberal arts school, we at Carroll College believe in the practical role of preparing its students for a career, but we also support the traditional role of providing for the expansion of the intellectual, imaginative, and social awareness of its students.
I believe students learn best by doing. Thus all of my computing classes are lab based with heavy programming assignments. Receive an assignment, think about it, work on it, get some help, think some more, and go again. My lecture classes emphasize demonstrations, student involvement, and just a bit of what I think is brilliant humor; a feeling generally not reciprocated by the students, at least if groans are any indication.
Mathematics, computing, and computers are fascinating, practical, and fun. My hope is that I can pass on the enthusiasm and love I have for mathematics and computing to my students. I want the excitement I still feel for these two subjects to become infectious and be caught by many of my students, so that they may experience mathematics and computing as not a dry, technical, boring subject, but a living, vital, exciting, practical, and totally absorbing subject that can bring them a great sense of enjoyment and satisfaction and accomplishment. I want them to not avoid a challenge, or be leery of it, but want to try it, want to test their wings, want to experience the joy and satisfaction of solving a difficult problem or getting a particularly recalcitrant program to run correctly and efficiently.
Students are all different. A teacher who respects his or her students is better able to help them learn and succeed. And respect is part of the Catholic liberal arts tradition of Carroll College.