Monday night

I know I said last week that I liked my students this year (so far), but that hasn’t stopped the Monday night “I feel sick and I don’t wanna!” feeling that I always get before Tuesdays (teaching day). Bah.

I realised today as I was doing the reading (rather half-heartedly, it has to be said) for tomorrow’s tutorials, that a lot of my tutorial teaching is a big act. A big act that I know all the stuff (which I do, but I’m no expert and I know it), and, right now, a big act that I’m even vaguely interested in it. A big act that I’m not resentful about the time it’s taking away from the work that I do want to do.

I’m tired of acting. When I’m talking about my own research, I get animated and ranty and interested and funny and passionate and heated. When I’m doing the tutorials, I just don’t want to do it, and it’s getting harder and more tiring to pretend that I’m not bored silly with it.

6 thoughts on “Monday night

  1. Interesting (although rubbish for you 🙁 and you have my sympathy).

    Is there any solution to the fact that unis need to teach little students general info as well as letting big clever people do important academic stuff they’re passionate about?

    (I ask this because your post comes a couple of weeks after I listened to two of my fellow students discussing a particular academic who works at the (fairly high-ranking) uni I’ve now ended up at. The academic in question is a scientist. It used to be the case that the final year undergrad students could choose between this guy’s course and various other courses and on their exams they could choose whether or not to answer a question in this guy’s subject area. The result was that this guy got no people attending his undergrad courses and no people answering his exam qus, hence his colleagues ended up with far more than their fair share of undergrad teaching and marking to do. The rumours are that this year the undergrad finalists will be forced to take at least one course by him and to answer at least one of his exam qus. Apparently every year students’ feedback forms say that this guy’s undergrad teaching is truly appalling and every year he gets told to sort it out. But the uni can’t actually do anything when he doesn’t sort it out (year after year), because his research is in some area which means he personally attracts an e-nor-mous pot of funding for his department, so they’re never going to get rid of him no matter how naff his undergrad teaching is. Obviously, that’s a story about one person needlessly being a complete PITA for his colleagues and students, but it seems like it’s symptomatic of the more general issue, which is that people enthused enough to be researching stuff get really bored and fed-up teaching the basics to undergrad students. Is there any solution?)

    Sorry, have just hijacked your comments thread for a random spiel of thinking-aloud.

    Much sympathy, and in 24 hours it’ll be over for another week 🙁 …

  2. Um, hate to break it to you but that’s the thing with teaching – it’s all a performance. The reality is that in the real world you occassionally get to teach something you really know loads about but often you have to learn enough yourself to teach what you need to about a subject. It’s only if you get to teach the same thing for several years you can extend your knowledge about it. Also it’s acting in terms of confidence, etc. You are there to perform a professional role and your teaching aids are props. You are looking to be a presence in the room, just like an actor on the stage.

    All of the above is pretty much what we got told near the beginning of our PGCE and the bit I’ve found to be most true – so don’t have a downer on yourself, ensure that you just give the best performance you can each time 🙂

  3. In Germany, in addition to teaching the usual basics, academics offer courses in their specialist areas (VERY specialist, indeed) and I guess that’s a bit different from the more formalised system here in the UK. But then, I wouldn’t want a job in academia in Germany with all the uncertainties it brings with it (no tenure track, hardly any lectureships etc.), you really have to be very enthusiastic to endure that… so if I want to stay in academia, it’ll have to be here…

  4. It doesn’t sound like a lot of fun; I hope you manage to get through it ok. Perhaps I’m lucky but my experience of teaching has been that even with the worst classes I’ve been able to find something to get enthusiastic about, and I guess I just love communicating stuff. Yes, there’s an element of performance, but it’s only a veneer, and if you’re completely uninterested, then I don’t think a layer of performance will hide that completely. Surely what you’re teaching must have some point or merit to it that could help you get more enthused about teaching it?

  5. mountainsnowtiger – thanks for that – I shall make it the topic of a separate post sometime (but not tonight, as I’m braindead after teaching!!!).

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