Class is in Session…

The weekend before last, I taught a preparatory course for the Programming, Planning and Practice portion of the ARE, sponsored by the AIA.  The class was well attended with a very interesting mix of individuals.  From students to recent graduates to professionals with 10+ years of practice experience, it was a diverse cross section of attendees.  While most had fully completed their IDP requirements, the majority of them had not yet taken any divisions of the ARE.      

While I was at theUniversityofMichigan, I taught several different classes over the course of 7 semesters.  Teaching classes ranging from undergraduate drawing fundamentals to construction and materials, I was continually amazed that regardless of the different students or the varying classes, my senses of accomplishment and satisfaction were always the same.  There is just something special about being able to share the knowledge and passion you have with someone else, and give them a leg up in the process. 

For me, teaching has always been most effective when it is treated as more of a dialog.  I have always stressed how important it is to talk with your students.  Don’t talk AT them but talk WITH them.  Lectures have their place in education, but it is hard for teachers to tailor their classes to the needs of their students if they don’t take the time to discover what those needs actually are.  It reminds me of the architectural programming process; you have to continue to ask the questions if you have any hope of discovering the true problem.  Only once the problem is discovered can the design process attempt to address it. 

Such was the case with my prep class.  Within the first several minutes of the four hour period, I asked everyone for a bit of information on themselves, as well as where they were in the exam process.  Most had yet to start, and it was obvious that no one was using the available resources to highest and best use.  I made a decision that a robust discussion on exam fundamentals and synergies and available sources and how to acquire them would be a benefit long after my particular class ended.  According to the class exit surveys, sharing some global knowledge in this one class that would apply to the other six classes that this group is likely to take was certainly the right decision.  Remember, your students are smart.  More often than not, they will tell you exactly what they need if you are willing to listen.

So, while most of you probably don’t hold graduate instructor positions within your program or some other regular opportunities to teach, I am betting you know something that you neighbor doesn’t, and I am sure that the opposite is also true.   Every now and then, take your headphones off and listen to what is going on around you.  Is someone having trouble with something that you can fix in a second?  Give them a little help, because the next person that can’t get Maxwell to behave correctly might just be you.  I promise, it doesn’t hurt.  It’s actually a really good feeling.    

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