Rethinking my role as Teacher in times of Distance Learning

Since 22nd November 2021 we are back in Distance Learning. I have written about my deep frustration with this situation in Back in Distance Learning - a call to Students. In this post I want to reflect on and rethink my role as teacher in these times.

I love to teach. This is the reason why I took up this job and I belive I have some natural talent for this profession. Let me stress the word teach. To me, teaching is much more and goes far beyond conveying knowledge and explaining things. To me, teaching is the ability to understand what students are struggling with, even if they don’t understand it themselves, overcoming their struggle, buy guiding them to insight and putting the knowledge directly into their heart.

Since the switch into Distance Learning I have been struggling with my teaching job and deeply doubting myself as teacher. I have thought everyday of quitting and taking up a job in the industry or becomming a full-time freelancer. Fortunately I didn’t follow this impulse, as today I came to the realisation that this struggle came from the fact that despite my natural talent and teaching gift I have not found my true place and true role in teaching yet.

With this realisation also came an inspiration of a possible direction for finding my true place: I want my teaching to transcend Distance Learning. Transcending Distance Learning means a fully authentic approach to an extremely personal, individual and direct way of teaching, working equally well in both, Distance and On-Site Learning, therefore transcending the medium. That immediately rules out flat presentation of slides or lecture notes, no playback of recorded videos. What it ultimately means is (re)producing the knowledge of the specific subject from within myself everytime anew.

In this semester I did move towards such an approach a few times, primarily through live-coding sessions. Everytime it was a deeply satisfying experience and I always got great feedback from the students. Why did the students enjoy it too? Sure, because it is a change from the slide presentations but I think the real reason is because it is there where my true teaching abilities can shine: deriving something in-front of the eyes of the students, discussing and reflecting on it, communicating my experience and thoughts during the process, guiding the students to the heart of the knowledge.

Obviously live-coding sessions are just one way of such a trancending way and I need to find and develop more ways to express my true teaching. This will require a big deal of courage and even more effort as well as requiring me to meditate on every single lecture I give to find ways how to teach these subjects in a transcending way. However, we as teachers are not alone and can stand on the shoulders of giants even in these matters as there were deeply fascinating role models such as Richard Feynman, Edsger Dijkstra, Jiddu Krishnamurti and many more.

In the end, guiding the students to the heart of knowledge is done by becoming a vessel and medium for the very knowledge and experience one is teaching by channeling each time anew. Thus, one becomes a channel through which the knowledge and experience is flowing and speaking to the students. In this way true teaching becomes a transcendental activity, reaching into the beyond, manifesting in the present, here and now, for the students to see.

Let’s see where this path is going to lead me…