Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Now on the other side

When I was young, my friends called me by the title Professor They knew it then, it took me some time to know it. I have become a professor now, after long and dwindling (at least at the end) stint as a student - School, bachelors, masters and a PhD.

Let me put at the outset something all of you know. Many theories get settled when you are on the other side of the table. When I was a student, we use to crib a good deal about academics. 'Why are so many things being taught to us?' 'What is the use of so much rote learning?' 'When are the holidays going to come once this burden ends?' and for some teachers 'Why isn't a teacher like him/her in all our subjects?' or 'Why don't we get more time to spend with this teacher in class?' etc.

Let me assure you I have the answer to some of these questions, now that I am teaching. But the point is not that I have the answers. The point is that I have a new set of questions coming to my mind. This time being on the other side. It's as if the process of having questions and cribs have remained intact, only their form has changed. 'Why don't students come prepared for the class?' (since my bachelor days I was one among them), 'Why do some students sleep in the class or why do some of them do not pay attention?' (I was one of them), 'How come some students have good questions to ask?' and 'Why aren't other students like these students?' and so on.

I can imagine the cribs of those professors who would have been very good students in their college. I had given up on this title since I went for my bachelors. Hence there are no issues with me if somebody does not pay attention or sleeps in class as long as there are a few students who are ready to listen and participate in the discussions. A number of factors could be responsible for this attitude (as it was in my case) and hence going deep into a student’s inattentiveness will throw a lot of questions into the methods of academics at our educational institutes in general. In a student life, I have seen that there are too many diversions (from the point of view of learning) outside the class. One way recommended is some sort of punishment for students who do not pay attention. I do not subscribe to this view nor did many of my teachers (thankfully). The general rule is as long the student is confident of passing the exam (that is what concerns many of our students), he or she can be allowed to be his way as long as the class is not disturbed. Given the strength of the class and the time given, it is impossible for a teacher to pay individual attention to students.

As a teacher, you cannot even think of missing a class. That’s the worst part. Sometimes you have a early morning class, you wake up to the alarm to check the time and you so wish to sleep more. Very much possible as a student (the option was taken many times by me).

You have to be prepared for every class, another demerit of being a teacher. As a student you can pass off by just sitting and showing your eager face to a teacher, even though you were supposed to come armed with doubts and questions from your readings. There is a good part to it though. If you prepare, as a teacher you make your efforts useful by disseminating knowledge. Such a channel is not available to a student in class.

A good part of being a teacher is that there are no more exams. How so much you free ride as a student, you got to prepare hard during exam times. I remember the burden of exam times. And have sympathy for my students.

There are other good parts of being a teacher too. You get to meet some enthusiastic students who are ready to have discussions with you on the subject matter. You get to set the question papers. Checking answer scripts is a pain though. Most importantly, you get paid for what you do. Learning and money go together. Not a bad bet.

It’s just been one year for me. I am sure there are a number of questions yet to be answered and a number of them yet to come up.

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