Wednesday, June 21, 2006

So How Many Calories does Teaching Burn?

First, a note: I may have, being tone deaf, inadvertently suggested that teachers/professors who do not take bull from students are Bad People.
I did not mean to.
I do not think that.
What I meant to say is that I find it useful to not notice bull. I have a complete lack of poker face, combined with a deep resentment for cheaters & Entitled People & other such I Don't Wannas. (This deep resentment is not mitigated by the fact that I sometimes find myself doing the same thing.) However, I also would like to help the students who take a class from me do as well as they like or need. Therefore, I find it useful to not catch on to people who are trying to cut in line; so long as I have strict rules about where the line starts, and how to get there, I don't need to.
That's a very poor metaphor. What I mean is that I don't mind offering help to people who would like to get a break, so long as it's the same help I would offer anyone else.
Because were I to realize at the time that they were trying to get a break, I would, in all likelihood, be less willing to offer the help I offer to everyone else -- and much, much less able to do it politely.
And this is all due to my own particular combination of quirks. And thus may very well have nothing to do with anyone else.
My class is small, about 10-15 people. It takes place in a room, deep & narrow-ish, that can seat 80. I use power-point because I find it helpful: I can put the slides on the web for students to download (so they don't have to copy that part during class), and they help organize my thoughts. However, it creates a funny dynamic for me: I feel less involved in the class if I'm sitting.
A lot of it is the arrangement of the room, the "desks face the teacher" arrangement, rather than a seminar room. It should be this way, for this class; it's not that this material cannot be taught in a seminar, class-discussion fashion, but rather a combination of it can be taught as lecture, and I have no experience leading discussions. But it does mean that when I sit down, there's no focus to the room, no human focus.
It also means that when I sit down, I can't see the students as well.
On the other hand, I feel odd, just standing between a big screen and no more than 17 people, talking, the way one might at a, well, talk.
So I find it useful to have something to write on the board. Examples. Further terms that are important, but there's less damage to the student's understanding of the subject if they don't remember them. The board is tricky, of course; writing neatly enough to be read, big enough to be read, not spending too much time with one's back to one's audience, and not spending too much time writing instead of explaining.
Even when I'm not expounding (ahem) on what I've just written, I also have to remember to stand still. To not sway. To not adjust my shoulders when I realize they're hunched up around my ears. To stand up straight.
It's an interesting test in proprioception. So far, I'm mostly failing.
So I'm learning as well. It's not about the same subject. But it's still just as it should be


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