Friday, June 5, 2009

Why I love teaching

About a fortnight ago I asked @megelder to blog about why she loves to teach. And she did. I thought the least I could do in return is to blog about why I love to teach as well.

Let me start by saying I never wanted to teach. For many years I even made very strong statements in this regard, proclaiming I would never ever become a teacher. I have said that about a lot of things over the years….

…I even thought for a long time I never wanted to be a lesbian. Figures what I know. Most stuff I was reluctant about at first are now the things I love most about my life.

When I was in high school I thought being a teacher was soooo very boring. I didn’t get it at all. Then as a grad student I went out of my way not having to teach. I just wanted to do research and have nothing to do with the students. Let alone teach them stuff.

I am not sure why I was so against the idea. Perhaps I was really so busy shouting I didn’t want to that I never even stopped to consider why. Or perhaps I just wasn’t ready yet.

I was a very different person as a grad student than I am now. I guess if I think about it I wasn’t really all that different, just less myself…if that makes sense. It took me a while to get there, wherever there is.

When I moved to Germany I started teaching on a weekly basis and after a few weeks I noticed to by big surprise that I really enjoyed it. Teaching was fun. Who would’ve thought?

Perhaps the difference was that I was teaching about stuff I knew lots about and was passionate about. Or perhaps it was just the first time I really got to experience what it was like.

I enjoyed the teaching, but I still was such a researcher. For years, that is what I spend most of my time on. The only problem I had with doing research at university is the importance that was placed upon it, even though most of the research being done wasn’t all that important.

Teaching on the other hand isn’t really valued much at most universities, at least not in my field. It’s seen as secondary and something that takes away hours that you could spend doing research. Of course, not everyone feels that way. That’s what I found out in my current job.

My current job is the best job I have ever had. I did not know this when I applied for it or even when I started. I discovered it on the way. Why is it the best? A combination of things, I guess.

Just to explain briefly, I now hold an assistant professor position that mainly involves teaching and a much smaller portion doing research. I have a lot of freedom how and when I do my work and everyone I work with is so enthusiastic, supportive and nice.

I am in a place where they really care about quality teaching, and they also love research, but they care less about prestige and egos, and they are really people first. This is such a wonderful environment to work in.

All the stuff that I teach is such fun. Mainly research methods and statistics. I know, this isn’t considered “fun” by most people, but I love explaining to students how it all works and to share my enthusiasm about research.

Sometimes you get them excited about things too and at other times the best you can hope for is that they understand it, enough so to pass their exams. In either case it is very rewarding. Even if I can just give them the feeling that they can do it or have it finally make a little bit of sense, I am happy.

Of course there are always students that are the typical unmotivated, annoying and stupid bunch, but for the most part I have to say I have some awesome students who are really fun to work with.

So why do I teach? I teach because it’s one of the few jobs I can imagine doing that I actually enjoy. It’s fun and it’s rewarding, and I also happen to be quite good at it.


Meg said...

yay for teaching. i must say that one of the reasons i stopped school was the ego, afraid that i couldn't hack it in a world bent on who is published most. it is nice to know there are universities out there who see the value in teaching. i just hope someday one of them will hire me :)

Natazzz said...

I am sure your time will come Meg. It's pure luck (ok maybe not just luck) that I ended up with such an awesome job.