Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Don't ask!

There might not be such a thing as a "dumb question"...but there sure are questions better left unasked.

If by this point in your educational career the only thing you find the need to ask your professor* in class is "Is that going to be on the quiz tomorrow?," do us both a favor and don't bother asking questions.

I know many (most, I might hope!) of my students dream, and dream big, imagining the many wonderful things they'll be able to do with the knowledge they'll gain in their classes...even their classes which are sometimes more challenging than they might like them to be at the time.

I know that many of you are working hard to make sense of the tough, tough concepts we talk about day in and day out. (Tough they are: it took brilliant minds centuries to piece together the puzzles we're assembling and disassembling every day in class.)

I also know that some of you are here only because your parents (or your high school teachers, or your guidance counselor, or...) told you that it's the next step that you're expected to take in life: you're not here because you want to be; you're here because you're told to be.

Of those of you reading this who find yourselves in the last group, I might ask the following question (which might, after all, be better left unasked), and I might expect a serious, well-thought-out answer: Why are you here?

* ...your professor who spends more time and effort than you can imagine in plotting a course replete with rich and authentic examples and opportunities for robust, hands-on engagement of central course concepts, for the benefit of students like you, who, I might add, very obviously (whether you know it or not, you're not very skilled at hiding your apathy, my young friend) couldn't give a rat's ass about what you're getting.**

** ...bitter? Nahhh...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am guessing that a freshman in your calculus class asked you this question. I don't mean to generalize about any group of people young, old ect. but it is likely the case that you are the first mathematics professor that they have had in college thus far and it might be difficult for them to gauge how much you put into your classes. I don't know that this excuses disregard for depth in one's educational experience but it might dawn on them if they one day have a mathematics professor who doesn't care about students.

That said, I hope that you know how much so many of your students truly appreciate all that you do and all that you bring into the classroom. I know that the education you have provided me with in mathematics is invaluable.

I hope to one day find a career as a professor, albeit not in mathematics. In any case though, if this dream of mine is realized I will consider myself a success if I can be as effective and passionate about teaching as you are.