One of the components of my applications is a teaching philosophy. I have been struggling with this thing for awhile now, and its not that I don’t have ideas about teaching, or examples about ways in which I’ve implemented those ideas, but it is hard to both write about teaching eloquently and to limit myself to two single-spaced pages. I think that critical thinking is important – but what is critical thinking? I think that good writing is important – but what does good writing consist of? I want to get students to love history as much as I do – but how do I explain that, let alone teach it?
I had been toying with including somethings in my TP, but have decided that it are a bit too ‘out there’ for a professional document. The core issue is the similarity between historical work and the work of detectives in detective fiction. I suppose a similar comparison might be made to scientists and the scientific method, but the romance of a detective novel is more compelling for me than the sterility of a lab. In Death on the Nile, Poirot is having a conversation with Colonel Race, a sporadically recurring character in the Agatha Christie universe. Race remarks “It often seems to me that’s all detective work is, wiping out your false starts and beginning again.” Poirot counters “Yes, it is very true, that. And it is just what some people will not do. They conceive a certain theory, and everything has to fit into that theory. If one little fact will not fit it, they throw it aside. But it is always the facts that will not fit in that are significant.” I think that this is one of the best accidental descriptions of the historical profession that I have come across. We live in a world of constant revisions in the face of new archives or theories, and the best historians re-work and re-think their arguments until they are the best means of explaining all of the probable facts. However, I think that it might be a little bit of a faux pas to quote Dame Agatha in my teaching philosophy.