My university has a fantastic program wherein graduate students (and postdocs maybe) who are interested in bettering themselves as teachers can participate in three cycles of learning and evaluation, at the end of which you earn a teaching certificate. I am currently participating in the second cycle, a reading group focused on college teaching theory and practice. I really like the readings. Sometimes they’re dry, but for the most part, they’re really fascinating. Thinking about how people learn and understand based on how they’re taught is something that I haven’t done in ages. Maybe ever.
The very best part of the group, though, is finding a set of people who validate me for reasons other than science. I spent last week at a scientific meeting, and though some of it was interesting and I did get some good feedback on my poster, I spent a lot of the time feeling inadequate and frustrated (for some of the same reasons I mention here). To come back, get to go to my reading group on Tuesday, and have a discussion about how universities seldom make hiring or tenure decisions based on quality of teaching and almost always make them on research performance felt AMAZING. Sure the system is broken, but at least we aren’t alone! We may not know how to change things right now, but we can keep working on it.