Thoughts about teaching
Things you should probably find out by yourself, rather than read in a blog, if you aspire to be a teacher:
- All that you work on with your students is gone after two years – all of your files lost, all the paper recycled. The fraction of a percent that may remain in the students’ minds after that time, however, is entirely in your hands.
- There is no consensus on the purpose of education. Ultimately however, whether your focus is on intellectual stimulation, professional skills, or acquisition of information, your work goes towards defining the students’ role in society, and you act as a filter.
- We are no more equal in intellectual terms than we are in physical terms. Beyond the student’s background and motivation, a great and cruel share of his/her success is defined by sheer intellectual brainpower.
- The nature of teaching is peer pressure. The real value added by the teacher is the process that keeps the student focused. There is nothing you bring that your students couldn’t learn by themselves. “Teacher” is just a pompous word for “coach”.
- Grades are meaningless and useful. They are meaningless for very apparent reasons. They are useful in that they serve as a metric for the student’s time budgeting. If that is not tormenting, you likely are getting one of those characteristics wrong.
- The balance of power between students and teacher is overwhelmingly and unhealthily tipped towards the teacher. Signs that you are doing a good job are subtle; the difference made is important but it makes for weak signals in class. Lower your standards and mostly nothing will happen.
- Intellectual stimulation is addictive. Intellectual intercourse is irreparably addictive.
- Blackboard chalk gets into everything.