I am taking a French class at a local adult education center. It has been a while since I’ve been the student instead of the teacher. In my current job, I only teach one class each year, but I also do a lot of one-on-one tutoring and advising, and I have a lot of classroom teaching experience. I took this class to become better at French, but it has also served as a nice reminder about some of the experiences of being a student. Here are a few things I’ve observed:
1. It is painful to feel like you understand something but, when put on the spot, fail to deliver. It is helpful to have many opportunities to try something, so that it doesn’t seem so crucial when you are asked to do an activity in front of the class (because if you fail, you’ll have another chance soon).
2. As a shy/introverted person, I get quieter the more that other people talk. And this frustrates me, about myself, but also about my teacher, and my classmates.
3. As a shy/introverted person, I get embarrassed when put on the spot, but I crave being called on. I want to learn, and the only way to learn is to try, but I will rarely risk volunteering. I prefer that the teacher give everyone an equal chance, and/or that the teacher calls on individuals. (I know that not every shy/introverted person feels this way.)
4. It can be really annoying to be in a classroom with other people. For instance, questions are obviously important to learning, but if you pay attention and someone else asks a question that has already been answered, that is annoying. If you are trying to learn a concept the teacher has introduced but someone else is dwelling on tiny details or hypotheticals, and the teacher spends a lot of time digressing by answering those questions, that can be really annoying. That said, it’s important to learn how to be in a classroom with other people.
5. If you don’t get homework on a regular basis, you tend to forget to do homework when it’s given. And you don’t think about the class when you’re not in it.
I mention these things not because I fault my own teacher (who is a really nice person and basically being paid nothing), but because I want to remind myself how to be a better teacher and what it’s like to be a student. Besides, it’s a lot easier to criticize a teacher than it is to be a teacher.