Raj's Lab

Strategy and Entrepreneurship

Young Teachers: Not an oxymoron anymore!

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During the last semester on my tenure as a visiting professor, I had a rather interesting experience which I dismissed uptill last week, when it resurfaced again.

While on my teaching engagements with B-schools, I tend to spend a large amount of time on campus outside teaching hours. This is the time I get to have discussions with my students, clarify doubts, learn for interactions, observe student behavior and also get to know my students better. I am usually given a separate room in this period that is very helpful in carrying out these.

One fine day as I was sitting alone in a cabin,  an elderly senior professor passed by and addressed me rather tersely “ What are you doing?” I told him I was catching up on reading in my non-class hours. This seemed to infuriate him more – he asked me  “Why don’t you use the common areas reserved for student, why occupy a faculty room?”

For a second I was speechless and then told him “Sir! I come here to teach and so the non-class time I have been allocated this cabin for reading and interaction.”

It dawned on him that he was addressing a faculty member and not a student, he immediately apologized and we parted ways with the promise to catch up later. I dismissed this  as just another interesting interaction , considering I was teaching a PG course that too for the experienced students!!

But during the last week when we (me and colleague) visited an engineering college as guests for a ceremony, we decided to have lunch with the students at the Cafeteria. My colleague pointed to a group of young people and asked why they were in more formal clothes than the others – was there a student dress code for the college function? We were told by smiling students – that the people we were observing were faculty members and not students. The only way to differentiate the students from their faculty we realized was through the attire.

I think this is a trend.  We are finding more youngsters turning to teaching as a career.

A great move but then somewhere are these young teachers treating the profession as it should? Are they getting the respect that comes as a natural by product for an experienced teacher? Today we find students giving 100’s of reasons why they need not listen to class or respect these new genre teachers. They are unable to demand respect or hold the students attention. Their inexperience in having handled students seem to be gaining leverage amongst their class.

While it seems age can then be a limiting factor – I have realized in my classes, age  (or lack of it) can be a very distinct advantage. As a young teacher, you are still fresh with memories of what it takes to be a student – you are seen as a person who can understand their psyche better. You can establish a faster, closer and stronger connect. While young teachers can ride this wave – they need to also remember to deliver. If the young teachers can bring fresh perspectives in both method and modules teaching, if they can make learning more interesting, if they can go the extra mile to give the students exactly what they had wanted when they were sitting in those college benches – the “young teacher” will become a winning combination.

Truly we are reaching a state where young teachers can gain the respect and value from the student community by delivering value – after all even in education customer is king and delighting your customers (students) should be the singular aspiration.

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