The Serpent’s Tail – and more thoughts on teaching

Sculpture of a snake eating its tail in front of the V&A Museum London (courtesy of MykReeve on flickr)

While sitting in traffic this morning, I thought a bit on the absurdity on modern life. Just sitting in traffic in a car seems absurd when I think of all the more productive things I could be doing. But worse, I am typically on my way to work where I help make software for people that design cars for people that build cars so that people like me can sit in them in traffic on their way to do more software to help people design cars…you see where I am getting to? It is probably like too cliché, but such are the thoughts of a disgruntled commuter at 8:30 AM in Paris traffic.

In response to the comment by Yaykisspurr (thanks!) on yesterday’s blog, a few more comments on teaching are in order. My class is very, very technical and probably way too overloaded in material for most participants. The thing is, in this modern life-on-a-treadmill, folks (myself included) don’t have time for a 2-week training so I have to cram it all into one week. Lots of thought went into how to structure the 2000+ slides in a logical way and create some exercises to give the poor students a break and some hands-on exercises so that the info sinks in. Things that I dread in class: the one guy that asks a zillion questions and still snarls from the back of the room (not really the case this week though); the guy that sits in the back of the room (sometimes next to the previous example) and doesn’t contribute jack and then gives the class a lousy review (when he could have given feedback all along which I would have tried to follow to keep him involved); when I find errors in my slides and obsessively correct them during the presentation (because otherwise I will most definitely forget to do it). What I like most: seeing them “get it” or successfully complete a tough exercise; getting intelligent questions near the end of the week; when they mostly answer the final quiz correctly. Actually, one of my other techniques is to quiz them orally on the previous day’s work for the first 15 minutes in the morning. I think it gets the blood flowing into their brain cells and forces them to “tune in” lest they be put on the spot. I also have a strategy of making my PowerPoints quite exhaustive so that even if they couldn’t follow in class, they have the material in excruciating detail for when they might really need it. Now, for those readers that have been through my class and think I am picking on them – no, it isn’t you I was thinking of. I have been lucky to have extraordinary students for the most part. The next tough part is how to both reduce the material to a more “beginner’s level” and create a 2nd more advanced level. Overall, I really enjoy this type of activity, and while exhausting, I find myself missing it once its over.


About mfinocchiaro

IT Architecture Guru for large PLM software company but dabbling in Web 2.0 and other stuff.
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