It is a new school year. Teachers and university professors all over the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and the Western European nations, to name only a few, are beginning a new semester. I love beginnings. Therefore, I really enjoyed a new semester. There is nothing like getting to know new students, laying out the syllabus, and, in doing so, returning to our first loves.
Beginning anything, well, forces one to return to the passion, values, vision, and mission of doing what we do; and why it should be of interest for others. In the case of an educational setting, a new semester requires that the professor or teacher return to those vision and values that not only shape a given subject and syllabus, but, more transcendently, shape one’s life.
Recently, I was reading in the Chronicle of Higher Education. I spotted a “discussion room” about effective pedagogical strategies for first days of class. I found that the professors were able to talk with each other in this online community about colleagues whom they admired. True to the purpose of the online community forum, they talked about other professors who were/are particularly good at beginnings. As I read through the examples I thought about good teachers and professors in my own life and how they would use the first day of class to communicate their vision and values. I thought about how their passion for their subjects impacted my life—not the subject, itself, but the teacher. All that from reading an online forum of comments? Yes. Yet, the greatest thing about the article was getting introduced to Professor Marian Diamond, a tenured professor of anatomy at the University of California at Berkeley. She was mentioned by one educator in his online post. He said that Dr. Diamond demonstrated, exactly, how to teach a “first-day” class. I had to see what he was talking about. As I watched I was mesmerized by the brilliance of this seasoned professor (I will refrain from calling her “brainy,” and you will see why if you view the video). I clicked off the YouTube of her class and said to myself, “This is how you teach.” As she began her first class of a new semester with new students to the University of California at Berkeley she demonstrated — she schooled — other professors on how to begin a semester.
Do yourself a favor and watch just the first 15 minutes of this Introduction to Anatomy at the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Marian Diamond welcomes the new students to a new semester and to her class at Berkeley and in doing so welcomes us to a way of thinking about how each of us can begin anything.
I am going to be using this video to teach ministers about “how to begin anything.” For in her presentation she demonstrates how to do a number of things essential to beginning a new job, a new congregation, and, even—yes—starting a new semester. Specifically, this teacher gives insights on how to:
- Make a first impression;
- How to create a need;
- Why she is passionate about her subject;
- How to given others a “STAR” (“Something They’ll Always Remember”);
- personal concern for her students;
- turning the tables and revealing that she, also, is a lifelong learner;
- respect for her class, her subject, and the institution she is serving; and, finally,
- This amazing professor gets around to explaining the content of her course and expectations for the students.
It takes her a full fifteen-minutes to get to telling the students about the content of the course, because she, first, tells them about themselves. My response, as I witnessed this lesson in teaching, was, “I need to learn more about anatomy!” I, also, thought, “I not only need to learn, but I want to learn from this professor.”
I hope that you will take time to ponder those questions after seeing this remarkable teacher. I introduce to you Dr. Marian Diamond, Professor of Anatomy at the University of California at Berkeley. I may disagree with her on many subjects. I don’t know her and am not commending her philosophy of life or anything like that. But, I can now commend her teaching as a model:
Now. What did you learn about “How to Begin Anything?”