Breathing life into concepts is the hallmark of effective teaching. With nearly thirty years of direct practice in the field of social work, I work hard in the classroom to illustrate ideas with compelling stories and real-life examples. My job is to capture my students’ attention. If I don’t, concepts become unanswered essay questions or, worse, rote textbook definition recitals.
A few semesters ago, I was explaining the term, macro practice, in one of my classes. “When we change the environment so that it works for the individual,” I told the students, “we are using the macro approach.” The yawns and glazed-over eyes were signals for something more so I took them back to an old, dirt road in rural Oklahoma where I spent a week knocking on doors asking residents to sign a petition so that my client, a dying hospice patient, could get meals delivered from an agency that told him he was ineligible due to delivery geographics.
We talked about advocacy and tenacity and a few unfriendly dogs on porches. We talked about policy and stamina and standing up to just-the-way-it-is mentality. We talked about injustice and anger and action plans. We talked about focus and pluck and the power of a pair of dusty shoes. We talked about change and choice and what it really means to social work.
Breathing life into concepts goes a long way. Passion means engagement which often leads to effective teaching.