Retired Part-time Faculty, Department of Psychology, California State University, Northridge
"When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place. I tried to find all the pieces, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine-in deep holes and crevices and dark closets....................
As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child's game, but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of the light. But light-truth, understanding, knowledge-is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it."
As reported in Robert Fulghum's It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It
This story captures quite well what I believe teaching is. I was a child during the Second World War, just as the author of that story. Over a lifetime all of us accumulate experience. Our unique experiences make us each into a unique conduit. We as teachers reflect truth, understanding and knowledge. Truth in life and academia in general, and neuroscience in particular is often provisional truth. You as students are the recipients and the judges of what you consider useful for your own life.
True, in the classroom setting we set the standards for what you need to know in order to pass the course or excel in it. But after you have been exposed to what we think is useful, you retain the power to reject what is presented. In the domain of the mind, we must be free.
I have taught at CSUN for more than twenty years: This is what I recently wrote about that experience:
"I love this university for its outreach and diversity. CSUN is student oriented. It is rated one of the most welcoming for disabled and deaf students and for Spanish speaking students. My classrooms are two thirds filled with students whose parents or grandparents were born outside the United States. I like teaching and, as an immigrant I have always felt right at home among our students; many of who have had to overcome more serious obstacles than I."
Questions are an integral part of science and learning, and even though not all will or can be answered, you will find virtually all of them honored. I like to believe that all teaching is ultimately a matter of enhancing awareness and a moral awakening. In that sense all of us need to remain students.