When I started, I dreaded it. I had this huge class in front of me with 100 + students, most of them older than me and totally unwilling to study the course on Biophysics; something they thought was worthless for their Physics degree. It was challenging to convince them. It was challenging to take them through to the end of the semester. And I took that challenge head on.
Lessons learnt over the year, which I will carry with me throughout:
- Respect has to be earned. I tried hard to get my stuff right. I couldn’t think of going to class to deliver a lecture without spending at least twice the time preparing for it. With everything provided on Internet, students do not want their time wasted with someone who doesn’t know their stuff.
- Students are different. Sometimes, it’s not their fault but their background is so weak that it continues reflecting on their performance. There is a huge gap between those who were fortunate enough to get good schooling and those who didn’t. A teacher has to find those gaps and work on bridging them.
- Instilling the love of subject in students is so crucial. Their motivations vary from getting a promotion at the job to just get another degree in the easiest way possible.
I soon realized my goal wasn’t to teach. My goal was to motivate my students to maximize their learning. That’s a huge paradigm shift. Ideas on teaching completely change with it. And that doesn’t come without motivation. While students lack motivation which bothers me a lot. They find easy way out. They don’t read. They don't spend time solving problems. I have done this as well. I was academically immature for a long time. My main focus was to get done with the semester as soon as possible and with as less reading and struggling as possible. In the end, I passed. They will pass too, get the degree, graduate but once they can’t speak with intelligence on the subject, they won’t be complete as they should be.
At the class evaluations, end of the semester, I received several thank yous. Totally made my day. I still have kept some to this day.
Change doesn’t come overnight and it doesn’t come without everyone contributing drop by drop. All of us can see how our education system is flawed in so many ways, so each one of us is responsible to do something to change that. By encouraging deep, meaningful thinking, which might even not show up on final exam or assignment, by motivating students to ask questions and find answers no one bothers to do and by doing things that would be actually useful to the society, we can bring that change. I have a pledge to myself to make a difference where it matters the most. And I am optimistic that one day I would see the change I have helped to create.