Hang on, Scott. Why're you blogging at 9.30 in the morning? Don't you have a class on System Integrity by the brilliant but eccentric Prof. Rhys Jones?
Well, Prof. Jones decided not to turn up for class today, which means I woke up early for nothing. I did get to overhear a few students talking outside the lecture theatre, though, and found out the betting odds currently stand at:
Family emergency: 10-1
Thanks a lot, Rhys!
So, anyways, I decided to write a little about my teaching experience.
Wait a second, did he just say teaching? Yes, your ears have not altogether given up on you; for those who haven't been tuning in recently to the hit emmy award-winning series The Weird and Wonderful Life of Scott, I'm now teaching two hours a week at a primary school. To primary five and six kids. You can stop laughing now.
It's basically a final year elective offered jointly by the Science, Engineering and Education faculties, in conjunction with the public schools' new technology program. It's kind of like technical class back when, except instead of making clay bowls, the kids learn advanced (for them) science, engineering and IT skills. Since it's a relatively new program, especially at the primary school level, the schools are in need of people with skills in such areas and this placement program helps match people with skills and nothing better to do (like me), with the schools' needs. Again, stop laughing; I mean it this time.
So, yeah. Once a week, I go down to one of the nearby primary schools to conduct a two hour session on web design. Yes, I know I don't have any formal webdev training, but that's what the school wanted.
The program's been quite a challenge, partly due to the fact that in order to conduct a 2 hour session each week, I've got to prepare back home for another five to six hours. On top of that, teaching 11 to 12 year old kids is not as easy as it sounds, and I have experience dealing with kids.
Actual academic teaching is very different from conducting camps, though; talk for too long and they start getting fidgety and the whispering starts. It's a real balancing act between both imparting the necessary (boring) academic knowledge to them and getting them involved by asking questions and taking part in hands-on activities.
I sometimes also forget that they're really a bunch of kids and gloss over stuff that may appear obvious to me, but confuses the hell out of them. And they don't always clarify when they're confused till later on. Or maybe they're not really listening, I don't know. Thankfully their regular teacher is normally in the class as well, and she does a very effective job of both controlling the class and clarifying concepts she feels her students may not understand.
My biggest challenge thus far occured yesterday when the regular teacher was away, and I began to appreciate the biggest difference between conducting a camp and teaching a class. When I used to work as a camp instructor, we were really ever doing only one thing at a time. "Ok, kids, climb that rockwall; follow me through the mud; build a raft; climb over that electric fence." With teaching, especially since yesterday's session was for them to work on their web pages, they're all working on different things at the same time, asking different questions, getting stuck at different areas, demanding for your attention all at once, and finishing up at different times. It's a big multitasking challenge to make sure these students aren't off downloading music while answering those students' questions and making sure the ones who've finished aren't playing basketball in class.
But as tiring, challenging, and altogether draining as each session may be, I find myself really, really, really enjoying every minute of it, and feeling sorry there's only three weeks of class left.