As one gets old, he establishes all sorts of rules. Some of these rules are the product of habits, while others are good guiding principles that help him navigate the complicated world. I have these guiding principles, too. One of them is how to define my role as a teacher.
Almost everyone has teachers. The teachers we remember come in various forms. When I was on the receiving end, I categorize teachers in one way. Now I am on the giving end. After observing the students and my colleagues, I categorize teachers in another way.
There are rigorous teachers, whose guiding principle is to make sure students work and learn from a class. Being friendly to students is not their strong suit. Students leave the classroom with a great deal of knowledge. There are, on the other hand, friendly teachers, who love to chat up with students and help them out whenever possible. They might not be the first-rate scholars, but are the ultimate motivators. Both groups of teachers leave imprints on students' mind. They change people's lives because they have their guiding principles. I belong to neither. But I also want to make an impact on students' lives. So I need my guiding principle.
I think I have found one long ago. Higher education is not cheap. What values do we add to the education we are selling? This is a much harder question than it appears. Believe it or not, that question has become my guiding principle in teaching. Any time I make a change or ask students to do certain assignments, I ask myself that question. I also review my courses frequently to see if I am answering to the question. I like what I do. I think the principle is working.