The Little Orange Book
Teaching is a powerful profession. Whether you teach workshop-style classes of twenty-five students or convene your class in lecture halls with five hundred or more students, whether you teach first-year students or doctoral ones, your influence is profound. You are the representative of and the gateway into your discipline, and it is up to you to ensure students learn what they need to know to move on to the next level. But more than that, you have the potential to change students’ lives – to encourage them to think openly and strategically about the world around them, to help them communicate effectively with a wide range of audiences, and to help them contribute to the disciplinary, public and personal communities to which they currently belong and the ones to which they aspire to belong someday.
But that potential, that power, that responsibility can be overshadowed by day-to-day uncertainties about how to be an effective teacher. Where can you turn to get advice or practical suggestions from experts? The Little Orange Book: Short Lessons in Excellent Teaching is modeled after Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book: Lessons and Teachings from a Lifetime in Golf. The vignettes and commentaries included here were written by the members of the University of Texas System Academy of Distinguished Teachers. This honorific group represents the most accomplished and renowned teachers from the entire University of Texas System. The UT System has eight academic campuses and over 200,000 students. Each campus has some shade of orange as its chosen school color, inspiring the title of this volume, but the pieces are intended to be relevant well beyond the Lone Star State.
The Little Orange Book contains short essays focused on the practical fundamentals of great teaching, revealing best strategies in and out of the classroom, no matter what the discipline or level of instruction. The topics range from simple but important tips such as remembering students’ names and creating a safe zone within the classroom to more advanced considerations such as determining when to use groups and drawing concepts for better understanding. There are also motivational pieces that focus on inspiring curiosity and introducing students to the tantalizing secrets of your discipline. Intermixed with the passages are one-liners and questions intended to provoke thought, reflection, discussion, and ultimately inspiration to try new things in your own class.
We hope that readers – new and experienced teachers alike – will find many useful suggestions while reading The Little Orange Book. Teaching at all levels is currently undergoing tremendous change, and it will continue to do so. But the fundamentals of great teaching, like the fundamentals of a great golf game, are timeless.