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Adding Balance to Teaching

By Dr. Margaret L. Shelton—

Balance, peace, and joy are the fruit of a successful life. It starts with recognizing your talents and finding ways to serve others by using them”– Thomas Kinkade

Financial Accounting is my passion and my focus in my academic teaching and research career. My great good fortune is be teaching in the Cameron School of Business at the University of St. Thomas.

 

Reinforcing the Learning Process

Generally, over the years, I have striven to be compassionate with and understanding of the struggles students face when embracing the concepts of financial accounting. Being open to answering questions in class, in my office, in e-mail messages and text messages reinforces the ongoing learning process for any student. Many of my colleagues in the Cameron School of Business incorporate similar approaches in their teaching strategies!

 

Making Material Approachable

Reinterpreting the possibly stuffy textbook language into more colloquial terms with which students are more likely to relate seems to make the course material more approachable for the students. This also alleviates some of the “apprehension” of learning a new discipline! Answering questions during class and using examples to which students are more likely to relate seems to make the material more easily comprehensible.   This particularly works when students come up with questions based on their own life experiences.

 

Adding Balance with Four Components

To enhance the learning experience and to add balance to what the students are experiencing, I have added four other components to my teaching. All of these items are very personal to me and reflect the supposed non-traditional side of being an accounting professional.

One: I often discuss my commitment to various volunteer activities. My motivation is to indicate to students that a balanced life is attainable and rewarding and might be something that they entertain when they eventually have time to volunteer.

Two: My students also know that I “work out” on a very regular basis. My activities are varied and I share them to encourage my students to have a balance between their academic pursuits and their physical and mental well-being.

Three: We have 2-3 minutes of yoga stretches at the beginning of each class and in the middle of the longer class periods. This is a way to transition from the demands faced before the class into the demands faced in the class. This activity supports the concept that one can balance personal needs with other demands.

Four: Recently, I had added a meditation concept for a quick discussion at the beginning of class. Our first concept was “Break Through Your Resistance.” Naturally, I related this to learning accounting along with noting that this idea applies other aspects of one’s life. The balance here is that knowing oneself will translate into knowing better how to approach outside challenges.

 

Initially, one might think that these four extra activities take away from time spent learning the course material [financial accounting]. My perception is that these activities expand everyone’s comfort level of being in the class, and thus, increases their focus on learning the material covered in class.

Margaret L. Shelton, Ph.D.
Cameron School of Business, Associate Professor of Accounting

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