Monday, April 19, 2010


I've started thinking that, perhaps, I don't actually enjoy teaching. Which is to say, there seems to be quite a bit about being a teacher that I really don't care for. Or I'm doing it wrong. Perhaps this is just how it all goes... nothing's perfect, right?

I love learning (my own, I'm not sure I can sense others'). I love reading. I think I enjoy meeting with individuals, or with small groups, who are truly motivated to learn something that I can help with. Not motivated in the sense of finishing an assignment, but in understanding material for understanding-sake. Perhaps it's content I already know, or something I can join them in learning. That might just be where my joy in teaching ends. Sadly, this doesn't seem like much of what school is (or, like I said, I'm doing it wrong).

I want to help individuals learn something that they are interesting in learning. I have no interest in talking to a classroom full of students about things few of them care about. I have no interest in trying to motivate them to care. I have a hard enough time with my own motivation to encourage others in that regard. And, looking back, I know that when I was a student, I didn't care about most of my classes, and don't expect I was interested in being told I should care. I didn't try to learn the material for its intrinsic value. This is especially true outside of math and computer science, but I expect even in some of those classes I was just getting through assignments (at least sometimes). Now that I'm about done with taking school, I'm finally ready to learn just about anything.

Probably I should just suck it up. There are always at least a few students who are paying attention, who are learning something, right? I should focus on them, right? I should figure out how to make things so exciting that people just can't help themselves but want to learn? I should continue giving homework and exams and playing the grading game, without it helping my students much at all. I should humor the notion, hinted at by award nominations, that I'm a "good teacher", despite knowing that I'm hardly doing anybody much good.

I should continue playing this game.

But I think I've realized about myself that I don't like other people's games. I like my own games. I think I might go find some of those...


Anonymous said...

I loved teaching. I just hated all the hatred between cliques of teachers, and also the great dysfunctions evident in the family lives of the students. To continually battle these extra forces was too much. Good luck on your quest.

sumidiot said...

@Anonymous thanks for the comment. I haven't noticed too much hostility among teachers where I am, but I'm sad to hear that it happens. I suppose it's only so surprising though, and probably happens wherever else I'd head. Hope you've found something else you enjoy.

bevthebod said...

I realised that I am very similar to you, I have the same feelings about teaching, and also question what it is I am doing. But when a motivated student tells me she's switching from Psych into majoring in Maths because of the way I teach my course, well then it doesn't seem so bad.

I've been told students feel as though I lecture to them as equals, colleagues in Maths as it were. It was meant as a complaint, but I took it as the highest compliment students could give me...

Maybe that makes it worthwhile?

sumidiot said...

@bevthebod it certainly is nice to hear student feedback like that. I feel stupid when I feel like I need that affirmation that I'm doing something worthwhile when I teach, but it sure doesn't hurt :)

Also, it sounds like your classes are good! Having students feel like colleagues... sounds awesome. I should take some of your classes.