Down Time

As an instructor, I know I am pushed to the limit sometimes to get to all of the material that I am supposed to teach.    We have a limited amount of time every class to lecture on new material, clarify old material, and to provide useful feedback to students.    One of the common mistakes that I see a lot of teachers make (and I’m guilty of this too) is trying to fill every minute.   A teacher has so much to do, and so little time…  it makes sense that we accelerate.

See the problem?   As much as it pains me, a class isn’t just about teachers teaching, it is about students learning.   And one of the most important elements of learning is taking time for comprehension.    One of the most common complaints that I hear is “you’re going to fast!”    Impatience is yet another thing that will sabotage a class – anxiety increases and simultaneously student confidence takes a hit.   Ever try learning something when you were feeling stupid, or frustrated, or like the teacher didn’t care to explain anything?

Dang… teaching would be so easy without the students.   Ah well, what can we do?

Slow down.   Giving students some time, not just to write and take notes, but also to think.   It is counterintuitive to have some quiet intervals during lectures, but it is necessary.    We know the danger signs that the class isn’t keeping up – the class is too quiet, no one asks questions, and folks looking stressed out.    Remember that students don’t always have the language to express their questions.   When I call for questions from a class and get nothing, I will sometimes ask “Okay, who feels like they have a question but don’t know how to ask it?”     That will usually get a response, and going step-by-step through whatever process we are doing will yield better understanding.


Okay, I’m done ranting and being a serious teacher for a while.   I’ll go back to my usual misanthropic self soon.

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