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When lecturing on high-speed integrated circuits or microwave theory, Ehsan Afshari says smart phones and Wi-Fi can present a challenge. "Sometimes it is hard to keep students focused. I believe with the advancement of technology, our attention span has decreased," he says. "This means that a teacher has to work harder to keep students engaged."
The extra effort has its reward, however. "Not only is teaching one of the most fulfilling and satisfying occupations, but it is also one of the greatest ways by which one learns," he says. "Education is not merely acquiring knowledge, it is understanding what one knows, and the best way by which we can learn our knowledge is by teaching it to others. As Aristotle says 'teaching is the highest form of learning.'"
But the ultimate reward, says Afshari, is the chance to make a positive impact. "The best aspect of teaching is the opportunities which it presents for the teacher to influence individual lives, and through them, the society," he says. "The most rewarding moment for teachers is when they witness a student's progress and achievements; and beyond that, when they see the impact their student has on the world."
A constant dialog with students is the key to Afshari's teaching strategy. "This helps me comprehend my students' abilities and varying learning styles, enabling me to understand the students, and to help them become independent and creative thinkers," he says.
He also takes two-minute breaks in the middle of his lectures. "The idea is to have a fresh start and gain their attention," he says. "We talk about something intriguing which is not related to the lecture. Also sometimes I ask them to tell a good joke to enjoy our two-minute break!"
While teaching awards are nice, the best recognition comes from the students. "My best moments are when my students send me a card or e-mail thanking me after the semester ends," says Afshari. "Also sometimes they thank me after using the material they have learnt in my class."