Monday, September 17, 2007

The Art and Influence of Pedagogy

Last month, I posted the text of a nomination I wrote for one of my favorite teachers, Al Kelly. The timing was coincidental, since a few days ago I received the 2007-08 edition of Hamilton's "viewbook," which it sends to prospective students and alumni, and which contains a wonderful essay by Professor Kelly on the art of pedagogy. Here's an excerpt (it's not online):

I've learned that what sticks with students could never get into my notes: the way I think about things; the way I bring facts to bear; the way I call the obvious into question; the way I read; the way I tear apart a sentence; the way I try to jolt them into seeing the world differently. The students can look up the Ems Dispatch. But I flatter myself that they cannot look up any of those really important things that I try to teach them. If I do my job well . . . I lead them along the path from what can be Googled into the land of what cannot be Googled. . . .

What long-term effects do I want my history teaching to have on my students? I'd like them to have a hard head and a soft heart. I'd like them to be wise; to maintain perspective; to puncture fatuous claims of novelty; to write with skill and grace; to judge only after they have empathized; and to develop what the Germans learned the hard way to call "civil courage." Faced—God forbid—with a totalitarian regime, my former students would, I hope, be among the first arrested.