First Soapbox at NAS with two renowned academics

Posted on April 05, 2019

Two seasoned academics from the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (NAS), Prof Jan Verschoor (Biochemistry) and Prof Wentzel Schoeman (Chemistry) recently gave their own unique flavour to the term ‘soapbox’.

The two academics were the first guests on FLY@NAS’ new platform – the Soapbox. This platform gives advanced scholars the opportunity to share their experience. The initiative is in line with the new National Framework for Enhancing Academics as University Teachers, which strives to afford academics at all levels the opportunity for continuous professional development. FLY@NAS is the platform where teaching and learning practice is shared in an informal setting.

During the first Soapbox event, a total of eight decades of excellent teaching with Profs Verschoor and Schoeman were celebrated, as they have an impressive service record that includes at least four decades of undergraduate teaching, mainly at first-year level. They have taught many of our current academics, and countless UP alumni can testify to the invaluable contribution that the pair have made to their training. These two colleagues leave a legacy that will be hard to beat.

Due to their extensive experience, they were the ideal candidates to appear on the first Soapbox and share their experiences and insights about teaching at UP.

Prof Verschoor started off reminding everyone of the beautiful song by Louis Armstrong: What a wonderful world. He demonstrated how Louis was the perfect teacher and also threw in a few dance moves to illustrate his point.

“I believe that the QUINTessence of a good lecturer can be captured by the word QUINT, where Q represents ‘Quality’,” he said. “No lecturer should present poor quality work. The U is for ‘Unity’. That means you should put your bias and prejudice aside and unite your class as a unit. Never polarise your class. The I is for ‘Integrity’. You cannot make empty promises, or be dishonest. The N represents ‘New’. You are obliged to renew your work and presentations continuously. The T is for ‘Triumphant’.”

Prof Verschoor concluded his presentation by stating: “Celebrate mastery with your students. It is important to keep them motivated.”

Prof Schoeman said he saw how transformation happened at UP since he was a first-year student in 1973. According to him, “the lecturer’s first role is that of a role model. You choose to be a positive or negative role model.”

He asserted that students are often unsure and insecure and it is the obligation of the lecturer to guide them appropriately. “Supply them with a ‘to-do-list’. It will motivate students as they see how they progress on their list. Students need to know what the ‘do’s’ and the ‘don’t’s’ are. I operated all my teaching life with the ‘10 laws of Schoeman’. Newton didn’t even have so many laws.”

In conclusion Prof Schoeman said that every person should think something of him-/herself, but not too much. “Steer clear of arrogance.”

It was clear that these two professors both taught from the heart!

- Author NAS

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