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A Willingness to Learn

November 02, 2018
Prairie Burgess

I have been teaching college students since 2005 and Concordia students specifically since 2012. Throughout this time, I have often reflected on my personal teaching philosophy, but only recently have I really started processing what it means to teach and learn.

At its most basic level, teaching is focused on imparting information to others. Learning is more personal and requires an individual willingness to gain knowledge or experience. Exploring the concept of learning has made me more aware of the learning experiences I have had that influence the way I teach, and thereby, hope to inspire others to learn.

When I was an undergraduate learner, I was fortunate to have several professors who were so excited about their chosen subject areas that it was difficult not to open yourself up to all they had to impart. However, I also learned from professors whose teaching styles were less interesting and outwardly passionate. While those interactions are not as memorable, I have realized that it was when I was in a place of willingness to learn, that I was able to gain. Any moment can be an opportunity to learn, as long as we are open to that possibility. Looking back, I can see that building relationships with my professors and campus staff members was the way I began to fully open myself to learning.

One of the best aspects about being a professor at a small institution is the variety of opportunities we have to interact with students. This semester I required students from two of my classes to meet with me individually. This has definitely taken a lot of time, but the gain has been worth it. On my end, I have been open to what each individual student shares, and through that gained knowledge, I have been better able to interact with each student. I have noticed that more of my students are finding a new level of comfort in speaking up in the classroom - sharing their experiences, asking questions, and generally connecting more with others. This is a perfect example of both the difference and connection of teaching and learning. What takes place in these informal meetings is not about teaching any specific content, but rather learning more about each other and building connection through that shared knowledge. This interpersonal foundation has impacted my ability to teach in the classroom by providing more buy-in from students and opening a door of willingness on their part.

I love that I am able to work at an institution that values teaching and learning for both faculty and students. This community of learners builds a culture of warmth and trust, where we can ask difficult questions and share experiences. When we combine these interpersonal learning aspects with quality teaching, we see true growth. Ultimately, it is a pretty exciting experience.