Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2010

Faculty Award winner

Alireza Rahrooh

 College of Engineering and Computer Science

 Engineering Technology

Teaching is a craft. Like any manual craft, it deals with tasks that must be done and redone every day. Each day of teaching brings failures, accomplishments, crises and delightful surprises. But it is always difficult. No class, no lecture, no assignment is ever perfect. Only with great effort can they be made acceptable. Let attention slip and you get a disaster. Try too hard and you get worn out. Pace, patience and attention to detail get you through, more or less. Conversely, teaching is not mysterious, grand, a science or a set of solutions to the problems of ignorance.

Teaching and learning go together, but they are done by different people and, thus, the match is incomplete. Learning can happen without teaching and teaching can happen without learning. If I teach well, students may learn, but my teaching won't make them learn. It will only open opportunities for them to learn. Teaching is not the transmission of information, culture, values or skills. It is the arrangement of conditions-a talk, a text, or a test-that is instrumental to learning. Like gardening, teaching is an activity that organizes natural processes to produce reliable results with a lot of sweat. It can be done with jumping enthusiasm and the signing of motivational songs. It can be done with insight and much silence. Like any enduring craft, teaching is demanding. To pretend that we can mechanize it, ignore it or even practice it with our spare mind and energy is to demote it to a ritual or bureaucratic procedure. When we fail the demands of the craft, we witness the result in an intellectually unprepared student body that is mostly unable to carry out the basic activities of learning-competent reading, clear writing, and accurate calculating.

The troubles that every teacher faces with more or less difficulty-the demands, the hostility, the issues of fairness and the temptation to try to make souls in our own image-come in unique forms with each class and each student. They can only be worked out hand-to-hand, face-to-face, and every day. Can there be a better occupation for someone who loves technology, ideas, innovations, books and people?