Some things I have to remind myself periodically

Here are some instructor tips I’ve learned but have to remind myself over and over again, because I forget.

1. If a student asks a question that I’ve just finished answering, keep in mind that if the student is thinking, they’re not listening to me.  That’s a good thing.

2. Just because a student is in a training class, their job doesn’t stop.  I understand when they have to monitor their email.  I still find IM clients in class annoying, though.

3. At every educational level, teachers tend to focus on the brightest and most aggressive students, and on the slowest and most disruptive students.  Most students fall in between, though, and that’s really the group to pay attention to.

Corrollary: if you’re a student wondering which group you’re in, if the teacher ever looks around and says, “where is everybody today?,” then you’re in the middle.

4. While the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is certainly an oversimplification of reality, some students are E’s rather than I’s (extraverts rather than introverts).  In other words, they’re going to think out loud, even if they’re just echoing what you just said.  That, too, is a good thing — it shows they’re engaged in the class.

5. Explain everything in great detail, very slowly, demonstrating each step as you go, and still somebody will miss a step and get lost.  It just happens.  Don’t worry about it, even if you have to explain it again and again.  That’s what you’re there for.

6. Show just the tiniest bit of irritation at a question, and you’ll pay for it later.  And you deserve to.

Corrollary: if you find yourself irritated at questions more than once in a long while, you’re teaching too many weeks in a row.  Take a break.  Everybody will be happier for it.

7. If I’m learning something and there’s a part I don’t get, sooner or later I’ll wind up teaching it.  It happens to me all the time.

Fact: the worst grade I ever received was in a numerical analysis class my senior year at M.I.T.  I almost failed it and it nearly cost me my math degree.  Sure enough, the first course I ever taught as a professor was numerical analysis.  G-d’s sense of humor works like that for me.

8.  Materials sometimes don’t show up, or they do and they’re wrong or out of date.  Software sometimes won’t install, or crashes at odd intervals, or suddenly stops working.  Computers are evil, pure and simple.  But a positive attitude in class really does help, as much as I hate to admit it.

9.  Students are there to learn what they need to know, not to be dazzled by what you’ve spent years learning.  An occasional story is fun, especially if it’s about a related technology experience, but don’t waste too much time on them.  Do your job.

10. If a student isn’t happy and complains, be very grateful.  It’s the quiet ones who never say anything that you have to watch.

11. I do love my job and definitely was born to do this, but I can’t reach every student every time.  It’s just not possible.  And as charming, clever, and witty as I am, not everybody appreciates my sense of humor.  Just move on.

12. As the old saying goes, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.  I hope I’m not booked that week. 🙂

About Ken Kousen
I am a Java Champion and the author of the books "Modern Java Recipes" (O'Reilly Media), "Gradle Recipes for Android" (O'Reilly Media), and "Making Java Groovy" (Manning), as well as over a dozen video courses at Safari Books Online. I'm a regular member of the No Fluff, Just Stuff conference tour and have given talks all over the world. Through my company, Kousen IT, Inc, I've taught training courses to and worked with thousands of developers.

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