Sunday, September 13, 2015

The student becomes the teacher!

It's only about a month now since I started teaching, so in a way I have way too little credibility to be talking about the art of teaching. But deep inside I feel like I have been doing it for years, and from that place comes this post.

Teaching sort of clicks with me, and when I'm in my class in front of 40 odd students, I actually feel like I'm in my element there like nowhere else. Not to say that the ride has been without challenges so far, drawing me in for the ease and comfort of not having to exert myself. On the contrary, its been a roller coaster ride, replete with adventures and surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant, and a lot of hard work, every weekday for the last one month. When I look back, however, what I see is satisfaction in work like never before and my heart swells with a sense of fulfillment. I have been extremely fortunate to have been allotted subjects very close to my heart. It is hence actually a matter of joy to get up and go to work every morning. Now there are several things about teaching I have learnt in the last one month which I would like to share. Since I was a student myself 6 months back, I like to believe I have pretty good insight into what students like and dislike, and hence a few tips for beginner teachers:

Firstly, love for the subject shows quite easily, and a teacher's passion in the classroom can be infectious. Students automatically respect teachers who love their subject. Teaching becomes ever so much more engaging and enjoyable, for both teacher and students, if the teacher is a person who is passionate about what he/she teaches. A person who doesn't love academics has absolutely no business becoming a teacher.

Secondly, teaching is performing. It takes a lot of confidence to be on the other side of the table, every day, with the same set of people who grow to know you more with passing day. If one enjoys being the center of attention for a prolonged time or loves putting up a performance in front of an audience, teaching becomes all the more easier. If the thought of dazzling one's audience and holding their attention for about an hour gets one nervous, teaching probably isn't for them.

Thirdly, students' performance has to do with both teacher and student variables. Its easy for beginner teachers to feel bad if a large number of students don't turn up for exam or don't do as well as anticipated, but one has to keep in mind that an excellent teacher can have bad students just as an average or poor teacher can have excellent students. 

Next, a beginner teacher must be, above everything else, humble and honest. There might be times when the teacher fails to answer a question put by a student. In such cases, it is always imperative to say without getting defensive that she would remember to look it up and answer it the next day. Holding the assumption that the teacher should know everything can prove to be dangerous. Students easily find out if a teacher is knowledgeable, and pretending to be what one is not may not be the best way to gain respect.

Furthermore, its far easier to be a teacher today than it must have been a couple of decades back. With the technology we have our hands on today, both preparing for class and teaching in class, take less effort than they would without the help of technology. If one has access to such resources, it would be foolish to not make use of them in one's teaching efforts. There are ebooks that can be sent to students to read before or after lectures, lecture videos of reputed universities and powerpoint presentations prepared by other lecturers free to download for teachers to prepare lecture notes from, and if the college has required infrastructure, a variety of unconventional teaching aids that can used in the classroom. Openness to technology and the desire to go the extra mile could make all the difference in students' perception, say between being a regular novice teacher and a young teacher who does things very few other teachers in the college do! 

Most importantly, teaching is all about being a learner. To be able to explain something to the class, one has to be thorough with the subject material and anticipate most doubts and questions that could arise from the material, and prepare accordingly. Coming to the class unprepared is extremely unprofessional and must be avoided at all costs. Students appreciate being asked to give feedback and a beginner teacher would do well to take all negative feedback in her stride, and strive for improvement constantly.

That's all for now. More will come along as I teach and grow some more. If you're a teacher too, please do share your experience!