A student caught me studying


Theodore A. Corcovilos


November 20, 2019

A student caught me studying, so I had to explain my teaching philosophy.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I have no good excuse, other than I’ve been busy and this got pushed way down on the priority list. But I had a conversation with a student last week that I felt was worth sharing.

It was during my office hours (a.k.a., my alone time) when a student walked in (gasp!) with a question about their course selections for next semester. I was looking over the textbook for the class I’m teaching in the Spring and was working some problems on the whiteboard. The student was a little shocked: “Don’t you know that already?”

Well, I do, but that’s not the point.

Every time I teach I try to learn something new. Maybe it’s digging into the next level past what I’ll cover in the class. Or maybe I’m looking into connections between this class and other classes. Or I might be looking back into the history of how things came to be. Or sometimes I’m learning a new way of solving old problems by teaching myself new math or new software. Underneath all of that, more often than not, I’m looking for a new way to teach a topic.

If you picture my class as climbing Mount Everest, then I’m a sherpa. Yes, I need to intimately know the landscape, but that alone is not enough. My job is to find the best route for you to reach the summit. I don’t want to lead you down blind paths, or slopes that are too steep for you (even though they might be fine for me!). I don’t want you to needlessly spend time or effort for little progress. At the end of the day, the summit is still up high, and you have to do the work yourself to get there – I’m not carrying you. But, I promise once you get there the view is worth it.

Oh, and don’t forget your oxygen mask.