Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sometime midway my graduate studies, I was made a Teaching Assistant - I had to go through some kind of a vetting process before that - where I had a 3 day workshop on how to be an effective teacher and to my greatest surprise, I found that I was given a 99 percentile rating by the students in the workshop amongst a population of 44 teaching assistants and even more surprising was that when I had to take the SPEAK exam where again, I, with my desi accent - complete with the inability to roll the R and stressing on 'Ta' syllable in lots of words - scored a perfect 60. After that, thanks to my professor, I ended up setting the syllabus, charting class/lecture plans, making lecture slides, quizzes, exam questions, assignments and grading them and helping makkal in the class with help sessions. The only thing which I didn't do over the course was that I didn't teach the class during class meetings - but that 'kurai' was theerthu-fied when my professor went to France for a conference mid semester and I had 2 hours notice to take charge of the class and complete it. At the end of the semester, the course got better ratings than 3 previous years and my TA rating was very good too. Now, I say all this to substantiate my belief (till 3 days back) that I consider myself a capable teacher.

Regarding my speaking skills, I'm a very bad 'prepared' speaker. If you give me a script and ask me to deliver it, more often than not I'll flounder. But extempore, I think I do better. So when a couple of weeks back I got an email from a professor back in alma mater, asking me to help with a guest lecture as a SME - Subject Matter Expert - I said okay because of 2 reasons - 1. This professor allowed me to enroll for his course much past the deadline and it ultimately helped me graduate when I did, and, 2. Being called upon to address a class as a guest lecturer always has its gleam.

It was when I reached the school that I was told this would be a recording and would be played to the students later - which meant I had to 'shadow' teach - which I've never done before and the second factor being without an interactive component, no lecture can be made effective. But the greatest factor which kept throwing me off the whole 1.5 hours was that a monitor in front me showed me the live video of me lecturing. This totally screwed it up for me. I know that being a shade over 6 feet and being used to size 44 (Indian size)  shirt means that I'm huge - but then seeing yourself on a video can actually give you an idea as to how huge you really are. I literally dwarfed the professor, who I suspect was close to 5 and a half feet and my body shape in a formal jacket tie and all that literally resembled an inverted triangle (delta, rather) with a head. I somehow managed to wade through the lecture and completed the stuff I'd prepared for one and half hours in1 hour and so the professor and me ended up doing an impromptu question-answer session in the end where he made me talk about Design Controls and how it is being seen as extra-work by med device companies.

This experience, I believe is an one-off one and literally opened my eyes to how tough teaching is - Its high time I know it as I was behind 2 of my UG profs crying in class as they were not able to teach us due to the racket that me and the others were creating.

P.S: Just now seeing that video from the link the prof provided, another defect of mine is noticeable - I have a voice which does not sound like a 24 year old person. I sound really boyish (an euphemism for immature?). Man, I hate this!

1 comment:

Satman said...

cool man!... do u have the video??... and was this bhansali who called u?