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The following is the transcript of the MAA Haimo Teaching Award Lecture given by Francis Su at the 2013 Joint Math Meetings:
His philosophy towards teaching as well as math is fascinating. The following is a passage that particularly resonated with me, but it is definitely worth reading the entirety:
I’m not saying that achievement shouldn’t be rewarded. There IS a place for credentials in academia. We would not want to hear a talk by someone without credentials. We would not want to graduate students who didn’t have skills. But achievement, in its rightful place, is NOT where we should derive our ultimate sense of identity and self-worth, and we need to have a healthy separation between achievement and worthiness.
If I could really believe this then it gives me great freedom! I can do math SIMPLY because I enjoy it, not because I have to perform. I don’t have to be “the best”. I can stop being so hard on myself. I can have a healthy ambition without competition: striving towards goals, without having to compare myself to other people. I can be happy for another person’s success. I can be appropriately open and authentic—I don’t have to fear showing weakness. Because my worthiness isn’t earned, there’s no need and no room for pretense. I can stop worrying about what others will think of me, if I believe the lesson of grace.