ON TEACHING

I had students feedback for my classes. The result is not encouraging. Most of students complained that 1) the pace is too fast, 2) my explanation is not clear, 3) the lecture notes are too hard to follow, 4) they need more examples.

I also talked to G. in the party. He gave me some advises. Americans in general hate math notations. They are scared of those symbols. In contrast, they love to build the class around intuitions. Here in States students have different attitudes as Asians. They don’t face fierce competition as we do. Their life is very relaxed. If this is their culture, if this is their expectation. Then why bother? I don’t deserve to suffer this. Just go easy teach what they can easily learn, test what they were taught in the class. And that is it. We don’t have obligation to teach them more.

This also confirmed my impression. Just go easy stuff, easy grade. If class is easy, they are happy. Don’t teach too much, don’t expect them to work outside the classroom for anything new. They don’t have that attitude. They just want to be fed with formulas and then plug in the numbers. Independent thinking is what they hate most.

According to these information, I should dramatically change my teaching philosophy. I must truly believe that I must lower the level of difficulty. What I really care now should not be how much I teach them, but my teaching evaluation. They don’t deserve my efforts. Therefore, keep it as simple as they want. The first thing I need to do is to change my lecture notes, switching to more easy ones. This is critical. I will use the slides provided by the publisher. I will give easier homework and exams.

1) I will adopt the minimal principle: go very slow with minimal knowledge but verbose explanation.

2). Exercise class every Friday. No matter how tedious they are.

3). They expect they see the homework problems before they head for homework.

As an adult, I should be mature enough to figure out that I need their teaching evaluation for survival. The key is that, if the material is little and easy, they can easily understand. Then they will not complain much. If that is what they want, then sell it that way. I have no obligation to make them think. After all, if they really want to learn, they should not end up here and they will learn any way.

Isn’t it a sad fact that patients don’t know what is good for them? I give up. I am just too good for them (by the way, since this is so offensive to you, I deleted it from the title. At least I need to make you happy :) ).

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3 thoughts on “ON TEACHING

  1. I don’t know what your students will feel if they ever have a chance to read this – I’m seriously offended. What exactly is “I am just too good for them”?! I think it just shows how arrogant and inconsiderate you are. You are a Ph.D. while for most of them, a bachelor’s degree is all what they think about. Of course you’re smarter than them.

    I think it’s exactly the them-versus-me thinking that makes teaching so difficult and painful to you. Teaching is definitely not about pleasing your students, however, it shouldn’t be purely based on your preference either. Everybody knows they hate math, so maybe what you need to do as a teacher is to show how math can make sense and help them in solving problems that they care about. If you feel that they don’t think, you just need to motivate them to think. When they graduate, most likely, they will be the people who work in companies and government agencies. They are not that bad, aren’t they? Otherwise, it will be hard to explain why American is the greatest country in the world. I believe they do think, only when they care of course, just like us. So that’s why I always believe that the most important task for teachers is to motivate students to think and learn.

    Self-centeredness is reflected from all aspects. I guess sometimes you do need to put yourself into other people’s shoes. Don’t take this personal though, I just want to see you succeed, as much as you do.

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  2. First, I don’t think I am smarter than all of them. There are a quarter of smart kids who really want to learn, want to think. They are in great contrast to the rest of class. In fact, it is this polarization that makes my teaching so painful. I love to teach those who really want to learn. As a matter of fact, my TA is one of the last year’s ace. However, that means I am running the pace for only a quarter of the class. The logic is simple and fair: those quarter who want to learn they deserve my attention. Those who do not even bother coming to the class, why should you waste your time?

    To your point, U.S. is powerful because of these quarter of self-motivated kids, not the rest. The rest, they are crying for the jobs outsourcing to India or China, struggling to pay the bills, and dreaming of a resident like Edwards to protect their so-called middle class life.

    My teaching was based on those who want to learn. I did enjoyed teaching them. However, in the end, I suffered most because it is those who do not come to the class determine your teaching evaluation. If you cannot make the rest 3/4 happy, you are done. For the top quarter they will give your decent rate anyway. This is not a secret among my colleagues.

    You are right I am self-centered, for I did care about those who really want to learn. But no more. I should have known that my teaching should be based on the majority, the rest 3/4. Whatever they demand. Easy class? Yes, I can do that. Just use fancy color slides from the publisher. Slow pace simply because you are lazy and don’t want to make efforts to think hard questions? Sure. We just don’t teaching hard stuff. More examples simply because you haven’t read the textbook? No problem. I can repeat similar simple examples again and again. Easy exams? Sure. Same as your homework, only numbers will be changed.

    Am I a good teacher now? Am I more considerate now? Yes. To the 3/4 majority, that is what they expect me to do. For the top 1/4 who really want to learn, sorry, you guys are not the majority. I have to be considerate for the majority who do not want to learn more than the minimal. Or more precisely, because I cannot sacrifice my teaching evaluation only for your guys?

    Motivate students to think and learn? Isn’t it another excuse for their laziness? Sorry, in this regard, I agree with Dr. L.: you cannot save everybody. They are what they are. Ideally, class time should be spent on how things work, not on why you should know these things. You got only limited class time. More time to motivate, less time to explain how they work. Unfortunately, the majority of them are just contented with the minimal they need to know. No more than that.

    So now I put myself into their shoes: easy class, slow pace, more examples, easy exam. Everybody will be happy. The reason is so simple: because I teach only minimal easy stuff and they care only about comfortably getting a good grade with the elusion they learn a lot and feel so good about themselves. I will also be happy without bothering thinking about teaching any more.

    The top 1/4 students? Sorry, the majority rules. I give up. What a sad story.

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  3. I do appreciate the fact that you took it off from the title. :) That definitely helped to calm me down…

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