As educators we all have the generous task of shaping diverse approaches to new and longstanding challenges in education. One of these challenges is preparing our students for a society that is ever changing. We are required to uphold the ethos of improving society through the advancement of knowledge yet with limited funding. The question then arises of how do we as educators continue to stay in love with our careers? One answer is to look beyond our respective disciplines for innovations.
This summer, as part of a pedagogical seminar, I traveled with fellow Hostos faculty to Cuba. This trip proved to be a transformative educational experience that will have permanence in my life. From what I learned I came to the realization that the United States’ educational system can take some learning points from Cuba.
For example, all graduate academic disciplines in Cuba require students to take a pedagogical course to ensure that graduates are equipped to impart their knowledge. This creates a cadre of professionals that are able to take on mentoring and educational roles as well as have a deep appreciation for the role that education has in society.
In the U.S. system of higher learning obtaining a terminal degree in one’s discipline is a primary qualifier for becoming a professor. Whether the individual has any pedagogical coursework is somewhat overlooked as a qualification. Therefore, the burden is upon us as U.S. academics and educators to foment a love of learning in our students yet with very little coursework preparation.
Again, I ask you to reflect on how to keep the romance alive with education. As you reflect I offer you some simple suggestions:
1. Remember why you became an educator and fell in love with your academic field (impart that to your students).
2. Keep the flame alive in your romance with education by always trying to be innovative in your approach. This may often require that you look at what is being done in other fields and for you to adapt such strategies to your camp.
3. Remember that you too are human and need to recharge. My trip to Cuba helped me obtained a fresh set of lenses where I could see how other academics teach and do research especially in a limited resource setting. This does not mean that you have to book a flight to get a new perspective; you can obtain a different one by just exploring within your locale.
4. You may be a sage in your discipline but that does not make you a pedagogical savant. This means that you always have to improve your pedagogy through any training opportunities that are available.
5. Lastly, understand that as an educator you are making a difference in society and you are by default an advocate for the voiceless–and they are counting on you to help them find a voice.