As an educator-to-be, I have to confess that I use Google quite a lot. This becomes even more prominent during online discussion, where students pose their questions freely. Most of the time, I can provide accurate and succinct answers right on the spot; but more often, students’ questions left me in the dark. It is in these instances that I resort to Google for a clue. Initially, I felt ashamed and unqualified, because I could not justify how through years of training and teaching in Biochemistry, I am not yet ready to answer a sophomore’s seemingly frivolous question. With this dichotomy in mind, I start to understand my predicament.
I realize today’s students are different even from when I was an undergraduate (which is only four years ago). Not only is their mind more open, but also more connected to the surroundings. They are not satisfied by being told 1+1=2, they also want to know why, how, and when this rule does not apply. I can comfortably teach 1+1=2, but often become stumbled in front of the why, how, and when questions. This urges me to update myself more frequently and learn continuously. At the same time, I also need to know the art of interweaving these questions naturally into my teaching to provide a better learning outcome.
I also contemplate on the question: “if I can Google to find a clue, why can’t my students do the same”? I picked up a hint from the emails they sent me. Despite the fact that many of my students were born and raised in English speaking environments, their written messages in emails are uninformative and often misleading. My students often start their questions without providing me backgrounds to orientate, they do not check their spelling mistakes, nor do they re-read their messages before being sent (I know this, because they often sent me another email immediately after, saying “I mean ‘does not apply’, rather than ‘does apply’”). These observations do not mean to belittle my students, in fact they signify the essence of modern education: the specificity of the textbook information should serve to support the knowledge of criticality, creativity, and innovation. For educators, instead of aiming to pass students in a course, why not turn the aim into a means of developing student’s critical analysis, creative thinking, and innovative attempts? In a sense, to know how to write an informative email is more important than knowing the differences between glucose and galactose.
Of course, I wish my students remember everything I taught them, but that’s not realistic. One day, my students might not remember what amino acid leucine looks like, they might not know what the hydrophobic effect is, they might not tell DNA apart from RNA, but at lease they would retain the soft skills they began to develop in my class.
And this is my intent of teaching and self-improving!
May 25, 16