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Getting stupider August 6, 2010

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, science, teaching.
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I was talking to someone about how I was glad I’d be staying at my job rather than TAing labs this fall. When they asked why, as they know I like teaching, I said that I could feel myself getting stupider. Or maybe bored.

I guess this was the first time I’d taught anything this much. I taught 15 sections of lab over the space of two years. The material was pretty much the same every semester, so after the first semester, I wasn’t learning anything new. The material was very qualitative, so I didn’t have the advantage of practicing and mastering any technical skills. I felt like I had developed a fairly good way of explaining things, so I doubt I could have improved much within topic and time constraints of the course.

This, however, has me worried. Admittedly, I was only a TA and not able to develop any course material. Likewise, I lectured probably a half-hour at most, and much less when I realized that they hadn’t read the labs and had no clue what I was explaining, anyway. But I wonder now about the possibility of boredom with teaching. I realize that students are always going to present new issues and challenges, but I hope that teaching lecture courses doesn’t become as routine as, say, driving.

My MS advisor had been teaching a core class in EE for about twenty years. This means he’d probably taught it about 40 times before he moved to his current university. By the end of that span, he could pretty much glance over his notes and do everything from memory. A semester-long lecture class admittedly covers a lot more material and allows more flexibility than what I was doing. The classes would have been spaced apart, such that you could give one lecture and not give it again until a semester later. While TAing, I was doing the same thing four times per week.

However, I wonder if anyone can do something 40 times and not be bored. Can you really find ways to keep it exciting? I sure hope so.

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Comments»

1. Chris Gammell - August 6, 2010

You could always just throw away your course notes every year…

I think the main thing preventing people from doing that is the time involved creating material. It’s not easy, even if you do have a solid background.

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mareserinitatis - August 12, 2010

Chris, I hardly kept notes. By the last semester, I just looked over the lab for a half-hour at the beginning of the week and was good.

I think you’re right: course development is half the fun. 🙂

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2. Fluxor - August 6, 2010

However, I wonder if anyone can do something 40 times and not be bored.
Yes.

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mareserinitatis - August 12, 2010

You are a bigger person than I.

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theamphour - August 12, 2010

Nah, Analog stuff begins to repeat itself after a while. Right Flux?

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Fluxor - August 12, 2010

I’m hardly thinking about work. 😉

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mareserinitatis - August 12, 2010

Men. *exasperated sigh*

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3. Chris Gammell - August 13, 2010

OH ewwwww. Man, we need a Fluxor filter in here.

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Fluxor - August 13, 2010

I find it interesting how my comment is being construed.

“Psychological projection is the unconscious act of denial of a person’s own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, such as to the weather, a tool, or to other people.”

I’m not sure what you and Cherish are ascribing to me, but don’t you have hobbies you enjoy doing, no matter how many times you do it?

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mareserinitatis - August 13, 2010

No.

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4. Charles J Gervasi - August 16, 2010

I don’t know what it would be like to teach the class over-and-over. Maybe I would make some variations on the lab to try to stay more interested and hopefully keep the students interested. I don’t know b/c I only TAed once. I hated it because I don’t like giving bad grades.

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