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Author: JABoa Big gold star, 5000 posts Feste Award Nominee! Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 9944  
Subject: Enthusiasm Date: 10/14/1998 8:40 PM
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This is something that the instructor somehow has to develop anew every fall (or semester or quarter in the case of college teachers) and you wish it would grow like rhubarb, but for most people it doesn't. I didn't get tenure so the problem got solved for me.

Some unconnected thoughts:

Your class makes a huge difference. Outsiders might think that a group of 60 or 100 students is on average going to perform equally well. That is absolutely not true.

Class performance and having a successful course are not the same thing. The very second best experience I had as an instructor was in a course called (by me) Calculus for Idiots, second semester, and it even met at 8:00. They had had someone else the previous semester and were somehow awake enough to notice a difference. They got inspired by the material, found it relevant, I had 100% attendance at help sessions before tests, one girl even literally jumped up and down on learning she'd got an A (maybe her first in mathematics -- who knows). In the end I gave out a lot of C's and B's since they hadn't mastered the material as well as I had wished. But it wasn't for lack of trying and I think, on balance, they enjoyed it too.

A famous Russian mathematician -- I think it was Alexandroff -- was asked whether Russian students were any good. "They're terrible," he replied. "You teach a course, and they don't understand it. You teach it the next year, and they don't understand it. You teach it the next year, and you understand it, and they still don't understand it."

Varying the courses you teach helps immensely for those who wish to retain some enthusiasm. Imagine teaching elementary Latin for 40 years. Ick.

Can the audience change and the instructor not? That was my guess my second go round after 12 years in industry. I was one of only 2 out of 39 that routinely wore a tie to class. Maybe I was intimidating. Maybe I just got a bunch of lunkheads that first year. Maybe the mission of schools has changed to reflect changes in family and community.
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