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Enthusiasm
Posted:
Jul 22, 1995 8:59 PM


Ed Wall has touched upon one of those intangible but very important characteristics of good teaching, being enthusiastic. I have read several papers on the topic of what makes a good teacher and this theme keeps surfacing.It is hard to define so I imagine that is why it has not received more attention in research studies which try to quantify student responses. It is probably true of other areas as well, enthusiasm is infectious (odd word to use here but the only other one I could thinbk of is contagious). I teach elementary algebra at the communitu college level where everyone loves to hate math. The constant question is "what do I need this for???" It is really not a question but a derogatory statement in the form of a question. I use the usual explanations about possible career enhancements but the studentsare often not sure of theior career so that is not very satisfying. A few years ago after workinbg through a long equation solving problem with multiple parentheses I suddenly gushed "Boy if you can do this you can do anything!!!". The class got a laugh and then went on about their business. A little while later the same thing happened with a particularly hard word problem. It has become something of a habit now and gets a laugh or at leasta nod every time. This has led us to discuss often how our thought processes are changed by doing and understanding math. By the end of the course I can see some changes in students attitude about studying math. I also tend to cheerlead a lot.I rant and rave a little about how powerful it is to be smart and know formulas and equations that 90% (Imade that number up) of the population is ignorant of. When we do graphing I extol the beauty of graphs over data tables and the presentation of real data and how that can influence other people. They get a kick out of it. I think a few skeptics even conclude that there must be something to it if this guy can be so enthusiastic in every class. The problem arises if you tend to be somewhat serious or quiet. It helps to be a ham or at least be able to act like one. I tend to be enthusiastic anyway, but since I read that research I find myself overplaying it a little. It seems to have a very good effect so I will continue. Someone once said that the world is our stage and we are all players upon it. I may have even said that, but I can't remember where or when.
Ted Panitz tpanitz@mecn.mass.edu



