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University of Toronto Scarborough
Garry Leonard

Many of you, especially if you have not had me before, are asking about my expectations and searching for ways to extract from what I am doing "what will be on the test". But I don't teach to the test. I show you ways of thinking about the material we are reading and viewing and then the tests are my invitation to you to show me you have been listening and thinking. it's that simple. and that complex. There is an old Zen proverb that goes "when you are ready to learn, the teacher will arrive". Notice the order of that. it does not say, "when the teacher arrives, prepare yourself to learn"; if you are not prepared to learn, someone called a teacher will arrive, but they won't be teaching you, and so the teacher will not have arrived, because you are not ready to learn, at least not from them--which is not necessarily a bad thing at all. There are lots of good reasons for not being ready to learn in front of one particular teacher, and you should feel free to leave and search for another, and it is nothing you have to be defensive about. The point is learning is NEVER passive, or at least what I call learning is never passive. if it doesn't happen in you, in a way that stays with you, then it hasn't happened at all. Nor is there any blame in this, or, if there is, it is shared: If you fail to learn, I have failed to teach. The two are inseparable. For those of you not ready, I will never arrive. So there you are-- a zen-like reason for dropping a course! keep it handy if you have to justify such an action to your parents "well, yeah, he's there every day, but he just hasn't ARRIVED, get it?".) Below is a "teaching philosophy" i was asked to write because I have been nominated for the "President's Teaching Award". Some of you may get letters about it because it is a long applicatin process that involves soliciting letters from at least a hundred students. There are only ten Professors on all three campuses of U of T that currently have achieved this award. But, anyway, since I wrote it for them, I thought I might as well share a portion of it with you: My Teaching Philosophy (so far) As a teacher, your primary challenge has nothing to do with your discipline, your syllabus, your curriculum, or the program you are offering. It has to do with how you answer this question: What are you doing that the students can find nowhere else and interact with in no other way? How do you justify the "live" format where students make the effort to sit before you, in person? Robert Frost once said "the only thing that gets lost when you translate poetry, is the poetry". Equally, the only thing lost when you translate teaching into mere technique, or to answering "correctly" on a test, is the teaching. I'm not against software or google or wikipedia, but we should understand what they do--and the great deal they do not. For me, teaching is different than every other way of communicating because what it offers is something that must appear to the students--if it is to appear to them at all-- as a gift rather than a duty. Often what appears to them when they truly learn is not what they don't know, but what they already know successfully mapped onto a new way of understanding. My students ask me what to expect. I tell them if I succeed, and it's by no means certain I will, what they can expect is an awakening of their expectations for themselves. A Chinese Proverb states: "Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand." Great teaching is the art of involvement because only this can build the infrastructure required for a life-long love of learning. I involve a class in their learning in three ways: through stressing the relevance of the material beyond the confines of the class, or the program, or the degree, and by showing attunement with their anxieties and ambitions. Really learning something new can be frightening because it requires an alteration of what you thought you knew. This is not a process they are likely to embark on alone. They need to know that you know they are there. The third dimension is putting yourself forward as a fellow traveller in a quest for greater understanding. How well can you can model ways of learning through the way you teach? You should always know something about what you are teaching, but not everything. And you should be as willing to talk about what you don't know, as what you do. Fostering their involvement requires you to delineate the line between wh
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