I chanced upon an article from my colleague Jessica Riddell the other day that I thought worth sharing. The title caught my eye: “There is no such thing as a naturally gifted teacher.” Jessica calls out the pedagogical hypocrisy in academia that would commit us to a growth mindset for our students (as learners) while subtly encouraging a fixed mindset for ourselves (as teachers). We expect our students to stumble with new tasks, to learn as they go, to develop unevenly. And yet, when we see teachers who are particularly adept, we tell ourselves they are simply “naturally gifted.” Here is the important question that Jessica asks: “Why do we believe that we can help our students master difficult concepts over time with effort and careful training, but fail to devote the same attention to developing our teaching capacities?” Jessica’s corrective is drawn straight from the academic’s playbook: pick a pedagogical area, read the research on it, test out approaches in class, and iterate.
Here at the Teaching Center, we are in the middle of conducting formative reviews that help our faculty to do just that. I rarely turn down an opportunity to conduct one of these reviews in my own classes—they have been the single most encouraging and helpful tool in my toolkit. I encourage you to reach out to one of us if you would like to schedule your own review! And in the meantime, consider the ways you have grown and continue to grow as a teacher. After all, we’re all always learning.