Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why is teaching fun and not so much fun

Teaching is fun. Fun meaning, it comes with responsibility, a lot of it actually, and then, its rewards are amazing. You walk into class, ready to give your best. And when you take class to your satisfaction and the satisfaction of the students, made evident from their faces, it is an experience. One that cannot be described in words.

Same time, when you see blank faces as you explain something simple, or review what you had taken the previous session, then the whole thing is defeating. You wonder about your own ability in conveying what you wanted as well as your capacity to teach to a class. It is not much fun then. Rather, it makes you feel down and doubtful. Which is a bad feeling.

Another feeling you get is that what you are saying goes over people's head. There are many vigorous nods of the head, some dozing off, some just sitting through the routine because they have got into it. This again feels different. This is the most challenging part because on the spur of the moment you have to make a decision whether to continue with class or change tactics or bring it to a stop and try it another day. Change tactics is what I like, where I try to start where it became hazy, take examples, get the class in, and continue. It is tricky because the examples can lead you away and it takes a lot of effort to connect it again.

So, teaching is a lot of fun where you have the chance to interact with many people, all growing, young and full of ideas. They may be quiet but you know that inside is a young person, full of life, blood boiling to go out and do something in the world. That is the attraction in teaching. You are part of something new, something waiting to happen, something that you don't know how it will turn out. And you have the chance to play a very very very small part, where you are a speck, smaller than an atom in the scheme of things.

Otherwise, teaching is not so much fun. When assignments and test papers are loaded on your table, and you head cries for creativity, it is not so much fun. When you feel like sitting and reading something new, some new article, or do research, and you have to mark the attendance in the online system, it is not fun at all. When you feel like doing something new, and you know you have to prepare for class is again not much likable. For you have to do what you don't like, semester after semester, year after year.

Students change, but the job of a teacher does not. It is a continuous cycle of teaching, taking attendance, correcting answer sheets and assignments and doing a lot of clerical work. With the current paper work, it is like what they say about work in a CMM Level 5 company. There is more paperwork than actual work. Here too, it is the same. I have to give 5 assignments, when I know that students will give copies. I am not allowed to try different methods, like projects, surprise tests, and so on. So, we need to try and innovate in this limited scope. Give different assignments, but how many different assignments can you give. 45 in a class into 5 assignments per paper makes it 225 different assignments. Impossible don't you think for a teacher. Afterall a teacher is human not superhuman. And if you handle two subjects, a total of 450. Not humanly possible is what I would say if you are speaking of quality especially.

So, getting back to teaching is fun one way, and not so much fun when I see the paper work. The target is to maintain the assignment and answer sheets and file paper after paper. That is getting my side clear. But, actually the focus should be in seeing that something creative is done that betters the student from one semester to another. The objective must be to check if there is positive progression in each students performance. That will be the real check. How it is to be done must be left to the teacher, I would say as long as it is democratic. For there lies the challenge both for the teacher and the student.

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