What is your favorite thing about being an instructor at OU?
It’s the ability to connect with students and interact with other people. I’m not here to brainwash or indoctrinate. Hopefully, what I’m here to do is to open their minds to see possibilities and be open to new things. Higher education is powerful, and it can set them off in a direction in life that won’t just influence them but generations after them. That’s what’s important about what we do. It’s changing the trajectory of families. We’ve got one life to live. We’re only on earth for a short time, so let’s do some cool stuff, and cool stuff is more fun when you have people and friends around you.
What is your best teaching tip for other instructors?
I’m a big believer that in teaching management, in teaching leadership, that you have to practice. It’s not just an intellectual pursuit. Just like being a musician or an athlete, you have to understand the rules, principles and philosophies, but then you have to go practice.
It’s also important for instructors to really see the importance of what we do. It’s so critically important and worthwhile. You can inspire people to change whole communities. They can’t just use the mental models that they’ve grown up with of what teachers are. You should push the boundaries of what it means to be a professor. Don’t be so locked into models of “this is how it’s always been done.” The different fields all intersect with life, and in those moments, capture that and use that as a teaching lesson.
Too many people only do it the way it’s always been done. You have to get outside the classroom, outside the norm, and see there are better, more interesting, more powerful ways to connect with students and give them the opportunities to open their minds and learn. Once you’ve started doing that, it’s really hard to go back, so my challenge now is to bring that into an online environment, but it’s one I’m up for.
What advice would you give other instructors for balancing teaching and other responsibilities?
The neat thing about what we do as teachers is I’m not done with my teaching when I shut my office door and leave. I wake up in the night and think, “Oh, this would be cool.” Our brain is always on, and as long as we’re always looking for new opportunities for experiences, we can turn them into teachable moments. Look for times when you can relate those moments back to your teaching, whether it’s a social media post or teachable example, and use those times to connect. We have these great media studios right here in our pockets, and we can record things and load them to YouTube or Canvas and use those times to connect. I have all kinds of weird little videos on my YouTube that relate to something in class that I can share with my students.