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Background photo: Anne Ku at Ilp, Netherlands, May 2001.

Bon Journal

Teaching from the gut

At my first post-graduate math class thirteen years ago, I made the bold mistake of asking the students to write down how many years of job experience they had and name the degrees they held. Of the twenty some students, only a couple had fewer years of working life than I. And most had Masters degrees. I thought then to myself, "How could I possibly teach them if they are more qualified than I?"

Through the help of a teaching coach a few years later, I learned that being a teacher isn't about knowing all the answers. It is about leading the students to the correct answer. Only then did I stop treating each session as an exam, with me as the person being examined.

I am now teaching statistics at the local university, as part of my portfolio career. I never dreamed that I would welcome such an opportunity. I arrived at the first class unprepared since I had only just landed and met up with the head of department. Instead of being scared, I looked forward to the first session with great enthusiasm.

I wanted to impart not just what I learned in school but also what I gained in my work experience. With each session, I noticed the students changing -- from closed postures and crossed arms to relaxed states and laughter.

Math and statistics can be fun --- that's my message. They are important. And when I'm teaching from the gut, I feel myself synthesizing and condensing the years of theory learned from various courses I had taken into three hours of class per week. My challenge is: what do they need to know, how can I teach them so that they will accept, digest, and retain this material?

11 March 2003 Tuesday

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Anne Ku
writes about her travels, conversations, thoughts, events, music, and anything else that is interesting enough to fill a web page.