More Teaching Thoughts

After perusing a TLG participant’s blog, and considering this past year of teaching, and how I seem to end up teaching in slightly ridiculous situations whether I will or no, the question on the table seems to be: what to do with the ridiculous classes? There seem to be two ways to go about this without going crazy: one must either be very strict and precise, with very definite limits upon which one insists with unflagging fortitude, or one must be willing to put up with manifest absurdity and being taken advantage of rather regularly. Good teachers mostly do the former — but good teachers who do this must have leverage. One gets leverage by knowing what the students want, and wielding this as reward or punishment. One must therefore have access to things the students want or want to avoid. One must call their parents. One must hold them back after school. One might sometimes ply them with candy. One must wield carrots and sticks effectively. I don’t know how to do this properly. I tend to resent having to. I certainly don’t know how to do it in a foreign country, and in a foreign language. All the same — to teach immature young people, one must either be very arresting and exciting (which I will never, ever be — that kind of charisma I neither have nor want), or one must insist upon boundaries vehemently, that there might be a place within those bounds where some learning might perchance occur. One might perchance feel satisfied with one has accomplished. Or not…

Two things are, I think, most important to me:

  1. That there be enough structure and order that I can teach a bit — a brief lecture, a brief demonstration, some practice time — so that students who are actually students can learn something, and others might even sometimes learn something despite themselves
  2. There be enough respect and order that I am not constantly distracted by being taken advantage of
  3. There be enough flexibility within that structure that we don’t have to be miserably uptight all the time

Ah, but putting this into practice… there’s the rub…

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