Jesuit/Ignatian, Tips on Teaching

New Year’s Resolutions

by Stephen Belt, Assistant Professor, Aviation Science

It is August and all things are possible for the coming academic year. This year, I will be more energetic, have better and more interactive classroom activities. This year, I will improve my exams. I’ll provide more feedback. I’ll get assignments back more quickly. I’ll do more research, write more grants, and publish more papers. It is so tempting at the beginning of a year to make such a list of resolutions—a list that, like other New Year’s resolutions, often result in an incremental (or catastrophic) return to the status quo. Heck, what little time there is to spare will undoubtedly be consumed in a million small and not-so-small ways. Yet, we aim high and strive to espouse the vision of excellence we promote.

As I contemplate the coming year, I can hear so many mentors offering sage advice: don’t let the good become the enemy of the perfect, pick one or two things to improve, add or change. I breathe and slow it down just a bit. I become a little less intensely focused on the details and find space to recall what it is that brought me here in the first place. It is a privilege and a joy to walk into the classroom and share with our students this journey of discovery and development. To be sure, teaching is some combination of art and science, a combination we all strive to balance. And it can be a chore. But it is also about passion: a desire to share what we know, what we are learning, what we love with our students.

Thus, our teaching can be a clear example of the Ignatian tradition of finding God in all things. Still, this is perhaps a most ephemeral attribute, one that easily fades into the daily grind and ever-expanding demands on time and attention. It is a focus on being that is all too easily blurred by the drive of doing. As I conclude my contemplation, I resolve to return here more often- to take time to simply breathe. To be more present and mindful. To see and share the joy. To remember that this journey is born of passion.