I enjoyed Ashley Wheeland’s recent column “Teaching what it is that we know,” in which she makes the point that teachers cannot always “hold their views away from what they teach.” I feel that teaching is at its best when the instructor can be open in the classroom about his or her own beliefs, while making the students feel comfortable enough to challenge or even disagree with them. Recently I attended courses with Professors Wilkins-Wells and Bernasek in which they said things to the effect of: “This is how I see it. Other scholars think X and Y, but for these reasons, I disagree with their theories. You may think otherwise.”
This seems to me a much better approach than hiding one’s true opinions in an effort to be “objective” or “neutral.” We professors need to encourage students to be less fearful to enter into dialogue with us in the classroom and during office hours. What makes us stay in this crazy profession is the opportunity for intellectual exchange and lifelong learning – from our students.
Mary B. Vogl
Assistant Professor of French
Foreign Languages & Literatures