Starting with this year (second semester) I'm back once again teaching laboratory classes at the Faculty of Computer Science from Iasi. This time it will during the Human Computer Interaction Course (Master Studies) held by dr. Sabin Corneliu Buraga. After more than six semesters being on the other side (from student to teacher) there are a few lessons I learned the way. So here we go.
You can depict a passionate man/woman starting from their sparkling eyes to the way he/she moves. The best part is you can transfer from your enthusiasm to the students. Let's be honest - there's a huge difference when you enjoy working or learning something that intrigues or motivates you to reach progress. Being dull doesn't make the course more intense or the clock go faster.
Patience is a must
If you want to transfer your knowledge to others you need to learn how to be patient. Mostly because teaching tends to become a repetitive task... like it or not. Not all students are advanced and most of the time you need to start from scratch. I've done this a lot. It may be time consuming, but having all students closer to the same level is way better than talking with only two in class.
Saying I don't know
Let's face it: you might not be the most experienced person in the classroom. Being on the other side of the desk gives you the privilege to share and offer guidance. But being a cocky know-it-all on a daily basis isn't quite the right approach to provide value & motivation.
I've been faced many times to accept that I don't have all the answers, know all the hacks & tweaks & scenarios, The thing I do is say I don't know, but let's find out together. Yes, I let room for discoverability and try to find the solution as much as time allows me to.
Drawing a line
Being too friendly has its disadvantages. Students don't need friends, they need teachers and sometimes even a mentor. Of course it's OK to be funny, gentle and understanding but don't transform it into a habit. It can lead to broken false promises and expectations. This can be very well observed during evaluation. The puppy eyes are everywhere. There is a time to be kind and another to be fully objective.
Keeping things fresh
Always try to introduce new elements, updated material, current findings. Sharing is caring as they say, and keeping the same things year after year may turn you into a broken record. That's why I throw away all my notes at the end of the semester and start fresh. You may never know what you can find.
I may be dreaming of a perfect world, but I like teaching and this is how I prefer things to be done. And as far as I see it, teaching will be a part of my life with or without a Phd, during a course or at a workshop.
PS: With this occasion I created a new section on the blog called HCI. There I will post most of my laboratory notes.
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