Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New beginning (part 1)

Fall 2010
Here it comes. My beloved autumn. The 26th one I witness. It has always had a special meaning for me. It's when I get most productive, enthusiastic and innovative. It's the start of something new. New area of learning. For many years it had always been celebrated by the beginning of studies which i had managed to miss during the summer...

For a few years after my graduation, I'd already missed the excitement prior to September 1. I felt the lack of celebrating the start of something new. This year it's again the beginning of studies for me. No, I'm not studying again :)
But let me share something with you.

Historical remark, i.e. my teaching experience
my first encounter with a computer. Netherlands, 1994
When it first somehow turned out that i have to start teaching, I was merely 17 years old. Just entered the university, uncertain about so many things. But luckily, i had to teach kids younger than me and things i was very confident in: computer skills. At first. Then i got offered to teach another subject: HTML. I was just started to explore the book my mother bought me from Vernissage. A soft-cover tutorial in Russian, with big red titles, describing all the magic of creating web sites. The job was tough... I had to learn first, and learn deeply, in order to be able to teach it to kids... and they may ask questions.... luckily, it was then i discovered that I can actually learn things pretty quickly. Those kids had no chance to catch up with me :)

It continued for about 7 years... when i'm now looking back, i can't imagine having a 7 years experience of teaching.. can i say that i really did master some key points of teaching art? I mean 7 years, beh!

During that period i even had an out-of-class student. She was a neighbor of ours, just married, looking for a job, but lacking any computer skills. It was a different experience, but probably also somehow notable.

Then I joined AIESEC. The title of trainer somehow again stuck on me, as i was destined to teach computer skills, effective PC/internet usage stuff to people who needed it. I loved the process. I realized that sharing knowledge is something i truly get satisfied from. I love the feeling to be the source of knowledge for someone. It adds value to my knowledge too. So in AIESEC i've been doing some trainings and presentations...

and so about the public speaking. Those who know me, can state that i'm quite a shy personality, not very talkative especially in front of more than 3-4 people. That is how I am... It took me quite a while to overcome the fear of getting on stage and voice trembling. I'm still in the process of learning it, through experiences, thanks to feedbacks. i'm constantly improving my public speaking and presentation skills because i knew it would someday become useful ...

The thought…
Some years ago i started seriously considering offering to teach in my university (SEUA). I was thinking to approach our dean and tell him that i'd be glad to teach some IT-related subject i'm confident about in my faculty. Not that i was feeling the urge to give something back to my alma mater.
Probably the main reason is that I was just feeling bad for today's students who do not have enough young and enthusiastic professors to learn from. I remember that during my studies, most of the useful skills and knowledge were gained from those few young graduates that were teaching us couple of hours a week. They were like vivid examples of successful entrepreneurs and scientists that could inspire us and teach using the language that we used. They knew much more of contemporary technology than their older, wiser colleagues with higher degrees, who were, however, stuck in the soviet-style mindset and methodic, refusing to adopt newer technologies and teaching methods in the classroom.
my diploma work, printed, ready for the defense :)
However, maybe deservingly, these old guys are still much more respected and considered to be more important by the university management, and they not only do not encourage or promote young professors, they put obstacles on their way.
If i actually approached my dean and my offer to teach got accepted, i would still have the feeling that i "own" the university for giving me the opportunity to teach. They would probably treat me like i'm too young "to know many things" and i won't get the deserved respect for the time i would take from my fulltime job and free time and devote to teaching, practically for no or very small monetary compensation. They would feel that they can exploit me, and load with lots of stuff i shouldn’t do. Maybe i'm very wrong with my assumptions but somehow i feel that it will be more or less like that.

My mom (a university professor, PhD) one advised me not to apply for postgraduate studies unless i'm planning to devote my life to teaching. No, she exactly said like this: "Do you really want to devote your time to teaching in a university? Hardly, there's no reason to study PhD for you". What she didn't know is that i actually love teaching (genes, huh), but she was assuming that she didn't want me to encounter the difficulties that the teachers and professors face today. They are way underpaid and have so few opportunities and it's not one of the most rewarding jobs.

I have my own motives for this.
1. The satisfaction from knowing that you were the source of someone's knowledge and the feeling to be helpful for several people.
2. Developing the public speaking skills, ability to handle a large audience.
3. Getting to know subject much more deeper, really mastering it.
4. Kind of recognition of the knowledge you have. You won't teach it, if you wouldn't know it good enough, true?
5. Learning 'back' from the students.

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