Teaching is not about what I do. It took me along time to learn this. When I first started teaching, my model for teaching was as follows: I focused on what I was going to say. It was about my lecture, or the information I wanted to impart. My job was to provide the information in a clear, understandable, hopefully entertaining way. The students’ learning was their job: they had to soak up this knowledge, and I assumed that as a result of this soaking process, they would come out of their encounter with me smarter.
Over the last twenty years, I have come to realize that this model is wrong. My job does not end with presenting information. My real job is to help the learner take away new knowledge from this encounter with me. Thus, rather than focusing on what I am doing, I now think of my first job as understanding the learner: what does she know, where does she get stuck, how could I ask a question that would stimulate her make a new connection. I realize now that I am only effective insofar as I can work the learner’s perspective. So now I focus on what they say.