Civics · Reflections · Teaching

My Intellectual Genealogy: Part 1

I recently found out that I am the recipient of the Library Journal’s Teacher of the Year Award.  This has me reflecting once again on the great fortune I had to have so many teachers and mentors over the course of my academic journey.  Here’s an email I sent to Anderson University, my alma mater, in 2002 to recognize some of the most influential of those, particularly given how much are foundations our set during the undergrad years.

————————- Begin Forward ——————————

As I finish another semester as an instructor for the Graduate School of
Library and Information Science (GSLIS) at the University of Illinois,
I’ve found myself reflecting again on what worked well this semester and
what needs improving.  Each semester I gain a further appreciation for the
skills I gained during my years at Anderson and how well they serve me
today.  Many of the same skills that served me well as I went on to obtain
my Masters and Doctoral degrees in Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers and
as I did postdoctoral work at the Beckman Institute, University of
Illinois, serve me well now as I manage computer systems and teach
computer skills to graduate students at the University.

The course I am currently teaching for GSLIS is a hands-on introduction to
technology systems for use in information environments. Most students
taking the course have little more experience working with computers than
as an end-user.  As an important part of solidifying the knowledge they
gain in working with computer hardware, operating systems, and networks,
students are required to participate in a service-learning final project
that provides a practical application of that knowledge. Two-thirds of the
way into the semester, students travel to East St. Louis to perform site
surveys at various churches and not-for-profit organizations.  They then
spend the remainder of the semester recycling donated computers,
installing operating systems, and networking computers together.  These
computers are then delivered by the students to their selected sites at
the end of the semester.  The resulting Community Technology Centers are
being used to serve the surrounding community as one tool to help
revitalize the area.

While the passion to serve those around me arose from the teaching of my
parents and home church, it was at Anderson that I developed many of the
skills that have proved critical to accomplishing the introduction and
management of such a service-learning project in my class.  For instance,
some of the strategies used within the final project come directly from
the Tri-S trip I took with Don Collins to New York and Washington, D.C.
But many of the other aspects of my teaching style and techniques come
directly from my mentors in the psychology department at Anderson.

From Curt Leech I learned not only how to methodically approach a problem
using the scientific method, but also the value of an open door policy
that invites students to come and share both their academic and personal
problems.  As he became involved in our lives in school and play he used a
holistic approach to foster a richer learning environment for the students.
Curt also helped me to gain a healthy respect for the scientific method
and technology more generally as a tool, but also to understand that it is
only a tool and not a solution.

From Bill Farmen I learned the value of teaching concepts and addressing
the root of a given problem.  Whether in learning ANOVAs by writing a
spreadsheet template to do the calculations or by handing me a book to
learn how to read philosophy texts when I struggled in his Philosophy of
Psychology course, his training methods helped me to develop skills that
have served me well whatever duties I’m assigned.  Bill also helped me
gain an appreciation for philosophy as another tool to study questions
that face us daily.

From Lee Griffith I have modeled many of my teaching techniques, such as
the use of outlines provided to the students prior to class and then
presented on overhead to help facilitate the learning process when many
new concepts and terms are introduced each week.  But I also learned the
value of mentoring students to think logically and clearly about problems
and then to strategically work to address those problems.  Lee helped me
to understand that the scientific method could be a valuable tool for
personal and social change, that this is a skill to be learned, and that
it is more effective to teach these skills than it is to criticize
students for being undisciplined.

In my class, I try to teach not only the basics of computers and
networking.  I also try to teach students the value of using these skills
to serve others and the techniques needed to accomplish such service.  I
try to teach them a healthy respect for technology, but also to understand
that technology is only a tool and only one tool of many.  I try to teach
the students the concepts that will allow them to take on duties beyond
those covered in class.  I try to keep an open door policy that allows me
to serve the student holistically.  These are just a few of the skills I
learned at Anderson.  (A danger of writing such an acknowledgement is that
it leaves out so many more positive influences that should also be
mentioned.)  Because there were skilled, caring faculty at Anderson to
teach and model these lessons, my students now receive a far richer
education than they would have had I not been taught these lessons.

— Martin Wolske, Bachelor of Arts, 1987, major Psychology

0 thoughts on “My Intellectual Genealogy: Part 1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *