Teaching philosophy series: Shaky foundations

The following posts have been individually constructed from my personal teaching philosophy document. This post is part 6 in my teaching philosophy series.

To date, I have published:


The analogy

Years ago, while pursuing my Library and Information Diploma, I had the opportunity to attend a networking event hosted by the Library Association of the National Capital Region (LANCR). It was at this event that I encountered one of the most influential metaphors I’ve ever come across. A systems librarian from the Library of Parliament was sharing a story about open-source software, specifically Evergreen. I inquired, “Why do you prefer open-source software?” His response left a lasting impression on me. He said, “Open source software coding is clean because it’s accessible to everyone, allowing them to enhance it. No matter how well-designed the faucet may be, if the plumbing is subpar, it won’t function properly.” This analogy ignited a lightbulb in my mind and became one of the guiding principles of my teaching philosophy. I’ve since adapted this idea into my storytelling, which I’ve shared with others. Instead of plumbing, I tell the tale of Ocean Tower.

The tale of Ocean Tower

Ocean Tower, a famous luxury condominium, remarkably unknown to many, stands tall at 31 stories on South Padre Island in Texas. This architectural marvel boasts 147 residences, a gym, swimming pools, a spa, and a media room. Rising to an impressive height of 136 meters, it reigns as the tallest structure in the Rio Grande Valley, withstanding extreme winds thanks to its three massively reinforced core walls. The tower offers stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico and the Laguna Madre, with some units selling for approximately $2,000,000.

Ocean Tower, the luxury of living by the sea.

Surprisingly, Ocean Tower also holds the dubious distinction of being the 34th tallest voluntarily demolished building. After two years of construction, builders noticed cracks forming in the building’s foundation, which had sunk nearly 16 inches. The skyscraper soon earned the moniker “The Leaning Tower of South Padre.” In December 2009, a controlled implosion brought the $75 million building to the ground. At that time, it was the largest concrete structure ever imploded.

Screenshot from Wikipedia listing Ocean Tower as the 34th tallest voluntarily demolished building.
Screenshot from Wikipedia, showing the famous Ocean Tower.
Cracks in Ocean Tower’s foundation.

The takeaway

The core message here is that, regardless of the quality of one’s teaching, a flawed foundation can pose challenges to achieving a successful end product. This philosophy has become an integral part of my teaching approach. Over the past two years, I have systematically revamped my strategy for first-year library instruction. I’ve reenvisioned the concept of Boolean Operators, offering a unique perspective. Instead of delving into the abstract concepts of “stress AND students” or “stress OR anxiety,” I’ve simplified the process by incorporating two vivid and memorable images: “robots AND dinosaurs.”

Ocean Tower’s demolition.

Lesson 8: A shaky foundation stands in the way of a successful end product.

Header photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

My teaching philosophy was designed and influenced by the guide from Western University‚Äôs Centre for Teaching and Learning titled Writing a teaching philosophy statement.

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