My dissertation director, Mitch Breitwieser, just received a Distinguished Teaching Award at Cal. This quote, from his "Statement of Teaching Philosophy," reminds me of the time when, in one of my many moments of insecurity, I asked Mitch at what point one finally got over the feeling that one was a poser, about to get caught. He replied that he didn't know, because he hadn't gotten there yet, himself.
A teacher’s conclusions can seem to have arrived effortlessly, but such facility can reinforce students’ feelings that, because they are struggling, there must be some personal deficiency, and such feelings reduce the chance that the intellectual problem will be solved, because academic success depends upon properly understanding the encounter with difficulty. If it is seen as an opportunity for intellectual experiment, students are liable to become invigorated and adventurous. But seeing it as the consequence of personal inadequacy dispirits students, leading many to quit, or to content themselves with the modest efforts that they come to accept as their best endeavor. Such outcomes are particularly tempting at Berkeley, where the institutional reputation can make even the hardiest egotists suspect that they snuck in when someone was looking the other way. Letting one’s own ideation show during class helps students to engage creatively with their own hard, but bracing, tasks.