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Sept. 17, 2014

Karl Gude: It’s about the students

Sept. 17, 2014

Karl Gude is the graphics editor-in-residence in the School of Journalism, College of Communication Arts and Sciences. He is the former director of information graphics at Newsweek magazine and The Associated Press. 

Every time I step in front of a class, I think to myself, “It’s not about me. It’s about the students.”

Whether it’s a class of 500 or 10, I’m always aware that I’m in front of people with very different personalities, intelligences, things they’re good at and incredibly different life experiences that have all shaped them into these unique thinkers. How lucky for us to be the ones that they've come to to teach them.

I am always nervous about whether or not I'm living up to their expectations, whether or not I'm effectively teaching, and whether or not they’re getting it.

And if they not getting it, then it's probably my fault. Not theirs.

Our job is to create a bunch of critical and creative thinkers without completely shattering their self-esteem. So the teachers who look at their students as children that they’re babysitting really need to start finding ways to stay relevant. The world is changing. Universities are changing. It is imperative we find ways to make it an even stronger experience for students who are sitting in your classroom.

Sitting in my classroom means something. It’s worth being there. That's a pressure that we professors need to put on ourselves. Great parents know how to engage their kids to keep them interested in something, and wanting to learn and grow. It’s all about creating an environment where all this can occur.

If they're engaged, they're going to be listening to you, and if they're not, they're going be on Facebook or their phone. The alarm bell for me is when the phones come out. If they really come out, you're doing something wrong.

It's not them, it’s you.

There are ways you can show that you care. And you know the best way? To genuinely care.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Want of care does more damage than want of knowledge.” A lot of teachers think that they just have to spew knowledge at these kids and they're going to get it.

They may think “Hey, I’m presenting the material, if they don't want to learn it, well, it's not my problem. It is their problem.”

You have to stay relevant. If you're no longer relevant, you’re basically being a bitter, angry teacher who says, “It’s just like babysitting.”


Photo by G.L. Kohuth