I was just surfing around a bit over at Front Porch Republic and came upon this essay by Bill Kauffman on the University of Vermont political scientist Frank Bryan. Bryan is a champion of local democracy and has written a book, that I am hoping to read soon, about the New England town meeting and how it works. He calls himself a “decentralist communitarian” whose heart “is with the small is beautiful crowd.”
I was particularly taken by Bryan’s thoughts on the Internet. Bryan does not rail against the Internet for the way it destroys face to face communities. Rather, he praises it for the way it allows people to work at home and be part of a real community of people without having “to drive to a centralized workplace, which was the great dislocation of the 20th century.”
After reading Kauffman’s essay, I wanted to learn more about Bryan and his work. On his website I found this great manifesto on teaching from the October 8, 1999 edition of the UVM Record.
In teaching, CONTENT IS THE CORE NECESSITY. Come to class unprepared and your students will know it. Worse, do it several times and you will lose them. I take knowing your subject cold as a given. But content, while necessary, is not sufficient. That, after all, is why we are called teachers. To wit, my top ten observations on becoming a better teacher.
1. Moses could come down to lecture on the Old Testament and students would fall asleep if he didn’t apply energy and style to his work.
2. Teaching done well takes effort. Sweat if you have to, and it’s OK to let them see you do it.
3. Everyone has a style. Find yours and work at developing it.
4. Don’t be pretentious, but never be palsie-walsie either. Act your age and your status. If you need friends get them somewhere else.
5. Never be cynical about what it is you are teaching. If you don’t believe in it, why should they?
6. Just because you are not a friend doesn’t mean you can’t be nice.
7. If you miss a class—for any reason—make it up.
8. Don’t be a jerk about exams.
9. This doesn’t mean you can’t be demanding.
10. Never forget that teaching beats the hell out of working for a living!
Pedagogical words to live by indeed!