Monday, 27 February 2017

On teaching

Going through this blog I realised that I made the last post about one year ago. It was probably too selfish of me to continuously blog at the time of my job search and then just disappear afterwards. My apologies to the occasional half-a-dozen readers who might have wanted me to post a bit more. Of course I can say that I was busy, but then who isn't.

By the way I'm not the only one who struggled with a writer's block.

Let me reboot this blog with a positive experience. I want to share something about an aspect of this job which, frankly speaking, I was least excited about when I was a postdoc. Teaching. My perception at that time was shaped mostly by my advisors and other news/blogs I used to read by other academics. Everyone dreaded teaching. It was considered a 'burden' that had to be borne in academia while you try to find time for more productive activities like research.

I just want to say that till now I have enjoyed it. Perhaps I am still immature and haven't got my priorities correctly, but at this moment in time I am enjoying teaching. I have taught courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels as well as a lab, and it has been an awesome experience. Teaching a course has constantly made me aware of how little I know about any given subject. Yes, I have done research and published papers and yes, I have studied the same courses as a student - but teaching a course takes your understanding to an altogether new level.

I already knew that teaching can be an extremely time-consuming process; but realised only now that the time spent is worth it. Preparing the notes, assignments, quizzes, and practicing lectures (I practiced on the whiteboard in my room how to deliver difficult content) can easily take away more than 50% of the week. During some busy parts of the semester, I have also given close to 80% of my time to teaching. But this aspect has also helped me personally for research. I now remember a lot more equations, theorems and proofs and am more confident while doing calculations in my papers (earlier I always used to keep a reference book handy to see how calculations were done).

Coming to the students, I think now I can say that I have encountered most types. There are those who love to learn new things, there are those who already know more than half of what you're teaching in the class, there are those who are sincere and yet struggle, there are those who just want to pass the course with a D and get a job, and then there are those who simply don't give a damn. The key is to help those who ask for it and provide a minimum level of support to everyone else. I just love it when I give a difficult question in the test and some students are able to solve it - makes me feel that I was able to communicate properly during the class :-)

I do hate administrative activities, however. I don't see myself becoming an HoD or a dean, ever. But I am loving teaching and research.