- Part 1 - Teaching Habits That Inspire You Out of Learning?
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"If you done it, it ain't bragging." - Walt Whitman"It's not bragging if you can back it up." - Muhammad Ali
“He who is humble is confident and wise. He who brags is insecure and lacking.” - Lisa Edmondson
In the last episode, we got a taste of a lecturer that only had time to engage the whiteboard, so that he could complete his syllabus. This time around, I will have to put on my student experience goggles and transport myself back to an undergraduate psychology course (Deviant Behavior) I took in the previous millennium. For the identity protection sake, we will name this lecturer Dr. Brag.
Dr. Brag was not an ordinary lecturer. No, he was an extraordinary lecturer! I used to enjoy coming to his classes, and occasionally he practiced what he preached, too. So, why are you writing about Dr. Brag? Let's begin!
Although, I admired his expertise, experience and knowledge, it got kind of frustrating listening to him brag (boastful statements/arrogant talk) about all his amazing achievements every class. By the end of the course, we probably knew more about him and his family's achievements than the subject matter itself. Every class, we would hear one self-glory ego-boosting story after another, covering his greatness in sports, politics, work, family and education. Yes, he was also writing more than 10 books concurrently at that time. My best friend was assisting him in editing these books, and that must have been reasonably challenging. I wonder if Dr. Brag ever finished writing any of those amazing books.
I have to feel sorry for the guy, too. He had high blood pressure and was a diabetic in a country like Malaysia. Now, that is a bad combination, especially when the classroom is hot and humid with many students who are mentally on holiday. Or sleeping with their eyes open!
Anyway, I was there! Since I had already developed the habit of sitting in the front row and asking questions, the classes got quite lively at times. Although, he bragged a lot, I loved the fact that he would always challenge us. The one bragging challenge that really got to me, was that he was happy to claim that, "No student in my class has ever gotten an A!" I am not sure if that is something a lecturer should be proud of, but strangely some are.
That was a challenge too good to resist. I didn't get that many 'As' during my undergraduate days, but somehow this particular challenge inspired me to get one. And I am really proud to share with you all that I was the first student at the University to achieve an A with him (Am I bragging or what! I hope he was actually telling the truth!). The glory was short lived though, as I heard that others got 'As' with him in the following semesters. Well, I am proud to be the first one at least (Bragging again!).
I suppose 'Deviant Behavior' was a course that came naturally to me, so I should not think so highly of my success. It is also no surprise that I also scored an 'A' in 'Abnormal Psychology' (Oh man, can you stop bragging!). Some students scores 'As' all the way, some score 'As' in only subjects they like, and some don't get a single one. Nothing to worry about, if you believe in yourself and work hard, I am pretty sure you can succeed anyway. Also, scoring 'As' is probably not the best indicator to predict future success in life. Though, it does help to get a few 'As' on your scroll, because it could at least help you to get an interview with a top company. Why didn't I think of that earlier!
Some argue that 'Teachers or lecturers join the academic world (of theory), because they are failures in the real (practical) world.' Such statements often drive academic staff nuts (even if it is sometimes true!), and brings laughter to students. Anyway, we don't need to go into this discussion here, because it will probably lead to no constructive alignment.
Instead, we could ask ourselves, "why do we like to brag about our achievements?" Do you brag? I certainly do, but I usually feel kind of stupid when I realize it. But then again, we forget fast, because it is always nice to feel appreciated and important. The best thing is when someone else praises us about our work. But if none do, we could always do it ourselves.
The best thing about teaching and bragging, is that we are guaranteed an audience, which will probably just look in shock and awe (some will already be sleeping!). I mean, no sane student is going to stand up, and tell the lecturer, "Give us a break from your pathetic achievements, and please get on with the class!" And unless one or a few students make it clear sooner or later, the lecturer will probably continue semester after semester, year after year. Interestingly, the stories will become more amazing and exciting every time they are told. There might even be 2-3 new versions every semester, especially if the lecturer is teaching more than one section.
Certainly, lecturers that have a lot of experiences relevant to the topic discussed should share them with the class. However, we should also ask ourselves whether we are doing it to assist our students to understand the learning content better, or emphasize an important point, or are we doing it to boost our ego. Perhaps we do it for both reasons.
If you think that your achievements are so great, perhaps you should watch a few TED Talks to put your achievements in a global perspective (do a bit of benchmarking, please!).
In my opinion, the greatness of a lecturer does not lie in what he (or she) has personally achieved. Instead, a great lecturer is a person who is able to consistently facilitate AHA-moments in students (Oh, now I understand!) and inspire (or trigger) them to explore and discover their true potential.
To sum up, Dr. Brag was actually a very knowledgeable and experienced lecturer, but his habit of bragging was something that was in my opinion more destructive than constructive in motivating students and facilitating learning.
Do you brag in class (or at work)? Has it become a habit beyond control? Think about it! It doesn't take much effort to change. I am trying, but I want to be appreciated and feel important! Unless I tell them, they will never respect me, recognize my amazing talent, and look up to me. What was the agenda again?
"Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success." - Dale Carnegie