Saturday, May 23, 2009

Why Do You Teach?

If you read the previous post, you know that I love the talks at the TED conference. I could not resist bringing up this conference one more time and highlighting a talk some years ago by John Wooden, former basketball coach and legend at UCLA. If you are a teacher at any level, this will be a thought-provoking video. It is clear that John Wooden saw his role at UCLA as a teacher of young people, not only about basketball, but life in general. There is no doubt that Wooden was a masterful teacher and in this video he gives us several gems of wisdom about teaching and life. One of the stories that caught my attention was one about a teacher that was asked "why do you teach?." I would imagine that many of us has asked that question at various times. The answer given by this teacher was quite profound and is discussed at 4:55 min into the video. Part of her answer was "where could I find such splendid company?."

As your summer schedule allows, I hope you will take the time to watch this video of John Wooden and reflect on your role as a teacher in higher education. If you have anything to share, please click COMMENTS below.

1 comment:

Jim Clinger said...

Wooden was a great coach of basketball, but he is remembered by his players often more for the personal impact that he had upon their lives than for the championships that his teams won. One interesting issue regarding the recruitment, retention, and training of teachers has to do whether the profession is or should be filled with people who want to be involved in the lives of students or should it be made up of people who have a great interest in the subject matter that they teach. Wooden obviously had both a personal interest in his players and a deep understanding of basketball. Sometimes university faculty are simply interested in their discipline and not the lives of the students in their classes. Another interesting aspect of Wooden's teaching style is that he was very directive. He very much stressed discipline, fundamental basketball techniques, good manners, executionn of plays as they were drawn up, and conditioning. He illustrated his prescriptions with a number of aphorisms and poetic verses. His former players, years later, remember many of those precepts. Some coaches (and teachers) give their players (or students) quite a bit more room to free-lance. A directive style is not used. Some pedagogical authorities in fact discourage that approach to teaching. Sometimes Coach Wooden's directives did not even apply directly to basketball. He had grooming standards for his players, and even sent Bill Walton home when Walton did not meet the standard. Somehow I think that most university professors would feel comfortable kicking a student out of class if he/she did not meet some kind of comparable standard.