I recently took Theological French with Dr. Rob Plummer, Associate Professor of NT Interpretation at Southern Seminary and author of the popular 40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible. One-semester courses in research languages are not the main reason why anyone pursues theological education, yet even in this course I found Dr. Plummer engaging, clear, caring, humorous, and particularly effective in his teaching.
My experience caused me to reflect on my years in higher education, recalling the handful of teachers who, like Dr. Plummer, were particularly effective teachers in their own unique ways. I decided to reach out and ask each of them three basic questions, and in the coming weeks I plan to share the wisdom of those who respond.
What pedagogical principles do you try to apply in every course you teach?
(1) I think about my end goal — what do I want students to be able to know or do? (2) I love the students — caring for them as persons made in the image of God. (3) I strive to be faithful and hard-working in my role as academic shepherd. (4) I am never 100% satisfied with a class. I always am thinking about how to change and improve it.
What are common weaknesses of young teachers?
A common error is to assume that having knowledge makes one competent as a teacher. One cannot be a competent professor without specialized knowledge, but knowledge alone does not make one a teacher. Another common mistake is that young teachers are afraid to admit their limitations or ignorance. Students need to see an example of humility. It’s OK to say you don’t know something, look it up, and come back later with the answer.
How have you developed as a teacher over the years?
I think I have become more forgiving of myself. I realize that not every class or every lecture can be great. Occasionally, I leave a class feeling that my teaching was horrible that day. When I first started teaching, this self-critical feeling would crush me. Now, I can shake it off easier — realizing I am fallible and limited. I hope I am finding my stability and satisfaction more in Christ and less in my professional skills. I will continue to have good teaching days and bad teaching days. I suppose a teacher who is never dissatisfied with his classroom performance is the one we really should worry about.