Teachers must be in love with their subjects and they need to have a sense of humor.
The former keeps one going for the long term, and the latter helps when the rest room hand dryer button is labeled, "For one of Professor Petersen's lectures, press here."These were just two of the teaching tips veteran Utah State University faculty members shared with about 20 new faculty members who will enter USU classrooms this week.
The teaching tips panel, a first, was part of an orientation workshop for new faculty sponsored by the USU Provost's Office.
This year's new faculty will also participate in a mentorship program with senior faculty, said Provost Karen Morse. The just-instituted program is designed to assist new faculty and help build relationships.
"You will all develop your own teaching style," economics professor Craig Petersen told the group. "It will reflect your personality."
But some information can be transferred, he said. He advised the new faculty to have realistic expectations about student enthusiasm for the subject, and to prepare for diverse student backgrounds.
James Kennedy, associate professor of forest resources, said that rewards for teaching are often fleeting and that the ability to be an exceptional teacher for a decade requires being enraptured by one's discipline. Rapture can be contagious, he said.
"You can't expect justice," he said. "You need to love the adventure of learning, the dance with students."
Ann Deegan, assistant professor of home economics and consumer education, advised communicating one's expectations clearly in the class syllabus. She also advised tuning in to intangibles such as the mood of a particular class and its personality.
"Some female students need help speaking out," she said.
Phil Rasmussen, associate professor of plant and soil science and biometeorology, said there were several things that he wished someone had told him when he began his teaching career.
"Remember, the syllabus is a contract between you and the student. However, you need to be flexible, to seize the moment" for learning opportunities, he said. "It is not permissible to keep the course the same year after year."
Rasmussen said that asking for student evaluations as the course proceeds can help in determining if objectives are being met.
Regarding evaluations, Petersen advised, "Dismiss the outliers. Look at the mode. You can get evaluations from one class that range from `a master teacher' to 'this person shouldn't be allowed in the classroom.' "
Students won't forgive trying to cover one's ignorance, lack of organization and preparation, class put-downs, or mistakes for which they bear the cost, he said.
"But students are basically fair. They presume you're there to do a decent job. They give you the benefit of the doubt."