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Thread: Teaching Experiences

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    libertine librarian sandwitch's Avatar
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    Teaching Experiences

    We have a lot of teachers on the forum, and sometimes I wonder how y'all manage. Preparing lesson plans, constant assessments, the demands of subpar students, administration complications, etc&etc. At what point did you feel effective in your role as a teacher? How have your MBTI personality traits helped you teach? Would you recommend your path to past-you?

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    Member Works's Avatar
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    I'd say it took about four years for me to feel like I was effective. You get faster at preparing lessons and you get faster at grading materials too. You also figure out a dozen systems that help keep your life sane. For example, I condition my students to start every single day the same way, by reading something of their choice. As far as MBTI traits, eh, I'm pretty flexible about a lot of things and I like to keep things interesting for myself and students.

    I'd probably recommend the job to past me. It's kept food on the table and it's a secure position if you aren't a complete twit. Also Summer Break. It's lovely.

  3. #3
    Hasta Siempre Madrigal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sandwitch View Post
    We have a lot of teachers on the forum, and sometimes I wonder how y'all manage. Preparing lesson plans, constant assessments, the demands of subpar students, administration complications, etc&etc. At what point did you feel effective in your role as a teacher? How have your MBTI personality traits helped you teach? Would you recommend your path to past-you?
    I was an English teacher for 7 years (don't laugh, people). The thing that most opened my eyes as a teacher was Neurolinguistic Programing, which is something that can be applied to the teaching of anything. What I remember of this is that people have different ways to take in information. The main forms are visual, auditory, kinesthetic and auditory digital. The idea is to understand which is your own prefered way of learning, because that is the one you're more inclined to use, and which is your students' way of learning, because that is what you'll need to adapt to. At first I quickly labeled any student who couldn't work with an image as unimaginitive and slow, as if they had a problem, but then I began to understand the differences in their learning styles. Needless to say, MBTI also helps analyze the way in which students prefer to go about their learning. Some of them are happy and productive with looser, more intuitive exercises, while others don't feel they're making progress unless you give them a lot of focus on structures, for example. Some of them need contact with other students while others feel that other students are dragging them down or getting in the way of their learning. As long as you aren't consistently alienating a certain part of the class, but trying to tailor your exercises to a diverse group, you shouldn't be making anyone terribly unhappy.

    Having had so many conversation classes (they usually gave me the more advanced students) made me much better at conversation in general, that is, getting people to talk about what they're interested in. It seems like a stupid detail but learning to be in control of dialogue isn't something that comes very naturally to some people. After all the practice, I feel like I'm now prepared to make even a rock talk to me, and like it. I'd be lying if I said that hasn't helped me tremendously even outside the classroom. Being confronted with someone who doesn't want to talk, who is totally closed up and defensive and shy, and then seeing them start to let go and express themselves naturally is probably the most rewarding things I remember about teaching. That and having them pass the international exams they were there to study for. One of the hardest things was keeping my classes structured, and keeping my face pleasant. At the end of the day, sometimes my face would hurt from smiling. Smiling most of the day when you don't feel like it, without it looking like a plastic smile, is not easy.

    I like teaching more than translating. Making the transition from teaching to being stuck in front of a computer all day was frustrating as hell for me. But teaching doesn't pay well and involves long work hours at home that are unpaid, so I don't think I'd want to get back into it unless I had no choice.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hephaestus View Post
    Heh. We've been here years now.

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    Regular Joe stigmatica's Avatar
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    I've had a few brief experiences as a stand-in teacher, and often fill that role for new employees. I find it incredibly satisfying. But I imagine it's like most things: As an amatuer doing it once in a while without professional obligations, it's awesome and satisfying, but once it's a job, it probably comes with all kinds of soul crushing negatives. I used to find software development incredibly satisfying, until it became my job. That said, if I ever came into a retirement enabling amount of money, teaching would be on the top of my list as jobs I'd consider taking up until I was too old and cranky. Then again, the true inner me wants to live in a cave away from society and hunt mammoth to be happy. I'd miss the internet though.
    Quote Originally Posted by mara View Post
    my crime is that i disrupted the echo chamber

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    Meae Musae Servus Hephaestus's Avatar
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    I always felt most effective as a teacher when the lesson ended and the student was excited--not at the prospect of going home, but by the material I'd presented. Sometimes they were excited because I'd given them hope for a subject they'd been struggling with. Sometimes they were excited because they were now more confident that their paper was good. And on the best days, they were excited because I'd shown them something completely new and beautiful: like how to solve trig identities.
    I'm suspicious of people who say they'll die for a flag but won't wear a mask for their neighbor.

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    Minister of Love Roger Mexico's Avatar
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    I think I'm still at the stage where feeling effective is a crapshoot. Sometimes lessons seem to have produced a palpable effect, and sometimes not, but I can't really lay a finger on what works in a systematic sense. It's a lot of trial and error.

    There's assignments and tests to go by, of course. You sort of learn to peg the achievers (who will do what they have to to master the material on their own initiative regardless of what you do), the underachievers (the kids who just aren't going to benefit from things as much as their peers will, for various reasons), and the kids in the broad middle. It's the middle group whose performance generally responds the most to direct instruction, so as scores come in I generally pay the most attention to how they're trending with the outliers on either end included but mentally flagged as such. Upward trends mean something is working; downward trends mean there's something I could be doing better. It's not rocket science.

    The most satisfying lessons, subjectively, are the ones where kids are still talking about the subject on their way out the door. Modern school systems run on a tight schedule of "think about this thing for 50 minutes, then think about something else for 50 minutes", and kids are well aware of how this means they need to economize their attention. A lesson that overruns the kids' barriers in this way (they're spending precious bathroom-break strategic planning time to keep talking about my material even after the bell rings) is one that feels like I achieved something.

    K-12 teachers tend to be EN_J's, or so I've read. I can definitely see that personality type having some advantages at least with conventional approaches to the profession. Doing it as an INTP isn't so hard (although your need for novelty and experimentation when what your students need is repetition can require some stress-management skills), and I think INT types are suited to bring certain things to the table. You're more likely to have an intricate, reflective way of thinking about your material, and an INTP especially won't be as attached to structure. If I need to spend an extra day handling questions or other issues I didn't anticipate in my planning, this doesn't really throw me off my game at all. Actually, in some ways I'd rather spend a class period fielding questions than trying to hew exactly to my plans for some elaborate activity. I'm better at helping people understand things when they can draw my attention to what they're not understanding than when I have to try and guess. My classes tend to be based on a shorter master-list of concepts which we're going to explore in depth, in an emergent fashion as questions about them arise, than my more extroverted colleagues whose lesson plans try to cram as many bullet-points of content in as possible. I don't like feeling harried or rushed when I'm trying to figure something out, so I try not to subject my students to those sorts of pressure.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ptah View Post
    No history, no exposition, no anecdote or argument changes the invariant: we are all human beings, and some humans are idiots.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Starjots's Avatar
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    I taught and Intro to Computer Networking class at a community college for maybe seven years.

    The first time I developed my approach, the second time I refined it. After that my zeal for the class slowly waned until I told them to find someone else.

    Students generally fell into one of three pots - those that really got it, those that sort of got it and at least tried and those that didn't try. Over the years I was pretty pleased that the last category was surprisingly small - the vast majority of the students tried to understand what I was injecting into their heads. A few ended up working in the field that I know of.

    I found teaching required me to think through a topic I already knew and identify blind spots and holes in my knowledge, which was good. I also got to tailor the class to how I'd like to learn things - maybe this isn't such a good idea since as Madrigal pointed out, everyone learns differently. Anyway, my approach since this was a very logical human created technology was to generalize the problems involved in general communication and then work my way into explaining the purpose of every bit in every header field. I didn't use a book after the first few semesters.

    Labs were tough to come up with, we did packet captures and set up simple networks but nothing on the scale of a simple enterprise. Also my unix/linux is lacking and I never filled that hole so they got a very network centric view of the topic.

    For them they'd probably been better off if I taught a CCNA (Cisco certification) sort of class instead of macro and micro theory of computer networking - I did cover the basic protocols in excruciating detail but certificates are good for employment. In my mind I was teaching them to fish.

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    Meae Musae Servus Hephaestus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Madrigal View Post
    (cancer rates are really fucking high among teachers, and I don't know about the psychological illnesses but I'd speculate that you probably can't get past secondary school without encountering a solid 20% rate of bonafide crazies at the helm of your classes).
    This is why every medication a doctor prescribes has the following warning: "Keep out of reach of children."

    Most people mistakenly think it means to keep the pills out of reach of children--which isn't a bad idea either--but it's actually meant to be read as an instruction, like "Take with meals" or, "Don't operate heavy machinery".

    Children spread mental and physical illnesses. That's why we need so many people to look after them: to control the concentration of child radiation. The effects on a single person looking after a child or two without any relief pitchers stepping in are gruesome at best.

    Some might object to my referring to children as radioactive. I'll call these people "unexposed". Just consider the symptoms of radiation sickness and the connection to being around children is obvious: Nausea, Vomiting, Headaches, Weakness and Fatigue, Dizziness and Disorientation, Hair Loss, Slow Healing, and Low Blood Pressure.

    Of that list, the only one that stands out as being out of place is the low blood pressure which is clearly counterintuitive until you've met someone who has been working with kids for a long long time. They look like they're traversing the plane of chaos with the equanimity of a Buddha. The truth is, they can't muster the blood pressure to react more vigorously. It's not a universal symptom, but it's still common enough to notice.
    Last edited by Hephaestus; 07-12-2014 at 11:50 PM.
    I'm suspicious of people who say they'll die for a flag but won't wear a mask for their neighbor.

  9. #9
    libertine librarian sandwitch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sistamatic View Post
    In order to save time I've implemented a system for writing assignments where if you pass a grade threshold on the first assignment, you don't have to do any more of them and I can concentrate on students who need me (you keep doing more until you show me you know how, then you stop) because there aren't enough hours in a day for me to tell my students all the things they need to hear from me about the deficiencies in the work they are turning in.
    I'd like to adapt that for my future work. Is this a practice you've developed or did you learn it from other teachers?

  10. #10
    A Transient Configuration Sistamatic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sandwitch View Post
    I'd like to adapt that for my future work. Is this a practice you've developed or did you learn it from other teachers?
    I started doing it myself about three years ago. I'm still adjusting it some and trying out different variations on the theme, and I think I've just about got it worked out so that it is an incentive to do good work rather than a way out of doing any work.

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