Monday, 17 September 2012

My first ever class...

Comic thanks to

Today, I taught my first ever undergrad class.  It wasn't as bad as I thought!  I didn't spill anything on myself, or blow up the computer, or forget everything I'd planned to say.  Basically, it was alright.  Not the best public speaking I've ever done, but not the worst either.  Instead of any self-flagellation though, I thought I'd share with you some of the interesting characters I met today.

1.  The 'I can't sure if I'm commit'
This student focuses intently for short periods of time, sometimes even answering questions or taking notes.  However, these bouts of concentration are interrupted with short periods where they seem to fall into non-narcoleptic spontaneous naps.  A late night is the suggested cause.

2.  The 'Interested, but pretending not to be'
We all understand the echoes of peer-pressure that might be lingering over some new students from high school, where it just wasn't cool to learn stuff.  The urge to tell them "It's ok!  You're allowed to learn here!  That's the whole point!" is strong, but sense of compassion and knowledge of how this might impact on their self-esteems prevents me.

3.  The 'If she's not looking at me, I cease to exist'
These are the students who begin loudly whispered conversations as soon as your eyes move to a different point in the classroom.  Not wanting to seem hostile in my very first lecture, I say nothing.  As soon as I look back to them, they sit as quiet as church mice.

4.  The 'I've done this before'
These types of students can be either good or bad.  They're either more intruiged and prepared to volunteer answers, or disdainful of anything you have to teach them because, of course, they know it already.

5.  The 'Anywhere else but here'
The student I feel sorry for because they just look miserable.  I'm undecided on why - is my teaching that bad?  I suspect illness, bad break up, homesickness or the sensation of being overwhelmed.  I want to give them a hug and ask them if they're ok.

6.  The 'Will I/Won't I?'
I'm not sure what motivates this student's see-sawing attitude to participation.  They swing from fully committed, taking copious notes and listening intently, to resolutely folding their arms and giving me the death stare.  Like serious death stare.  I thought I might die.

7.  The one who makes it all worth it
This student is engaging.  They smile at you and you see the understanding cross their face as you explain new vocabulary to them.  They alternate between taking notes and listening, but seem very clued in.  They come to speak to you at the end of class to ask an insightful question and thank you for your time.  They are the reason you feel it'll be ok to do this for another two years.


  1. We all should be the kind of students who make it all worth it for their lecturers!

    I substituted for my Supervisor once, and I didn't like it. Either my teaching was VERY BAD or the students just weren't interested. There was just one-way communication. And at the end of the class, most of them can't wait to save the slides into their jump drive.

    But I'm glad you had a positive class today. Cheers!

  2. Thanks Pelf!

    It was a bit of a relief to be sure, but I have to teach the same lesson to five different classes, so there's no guarantee on how it'll go tomorrow!

  3. wow, a taxonomy of reception. can it be distracting? you know, the act of classifying students and what not, during lecture. :)