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To be a good teacher, Cynthia Reinhart-King has learned she needs to be a good listener. "If you give students the opportunity, they will tell you what is working well in the class and what is not," she says.
Reinhart-King encourages such interaction with her students. "I often pose open-ended questions, and I don't mind waiting through the awkward silence until I get an answer," she says. "I want the students to not only take notes, but to digest the material in real-time. Likewise, I encourage the students to ask questions when things are unclear—I want to know if I have lost them."
A lot of effort goes into Reinhart-King's questions. "I think I have gotten better at asking thought-provoking questions that engage the students, rather than just trivial questions that check to make sure they are still awake!" she says.
But keeping everyone engaged can be difficult. "One of the most challenging aspects for me is framing material in such a way that both the brightest and weakest students stay engaged," says Reinhart-King. "It can be difficult to give lectures that don't lose anyone or write problems that challenge everyone."
Preparation is the key, says Reinhart-King. "I think it is worth the effort to be as organized and thorough as possible in your first semester of teaching a course so that in the second time you teach it, you can focus on fine-tuning only," she says.
On the first day of class, Reinhart-King hands out a list of the key concepts or skills her students will take from the class. "This list often contains words and concepts that they have never even heard before," she says. "In the last week of the class, I project this list up on a slide to show the students how much they have learned. The most rewarding moment in the semester is all of the heads that are nodding in the audience as they realize how much they learned in the course."