Thursday, February 25, 2010

My name is Khan... and I sometimes misspell Terrorist

Last night on formspring, some anonymous person asked me for tips because they want to become a lecturer. The first tip I would give them is that they should not be financially motivated, because lecturers make zip. Actually its not too bad. Its a comfortable salary. For one. But thats the thing about lecturing. You dont do it for the money. You do it because of your desire to teach. Or if you want a complex. But hopefully its because you enjoy teaching. So I started rattling off some tips and before I knew it, I had written a treatise of sorts. The thing about formspring is that within a day it'l be off my main page so I thought i'd save it here in case anyone wants to read it. Also, about a 200 of you peeps that I have as facebook friends are students/ or former students off mine, i'd like you guys to comment as well so that I will learn and improve and the new guys can also benefit. Lets start.

Firstly - you have to have passion for what you're teaching. If you don't, your students will pick up on it and you are in trouble.

You must be prepared for class. You don't have to be a walking wikipedia but you must come across as a somewhat authority figure or at the very least - know what you're teaching.

Next point follows on from this. Don't think you know all the answers. Listen to your students, learn from them and admit when you are wrong. It doesn't make you any less of a person. Unless you say something retarded.

From the onset state that you don't have all the answers. But make an earnest attempt to research or find answers for questions raised that you may not have the answers for.

Try to spice up lectures. Students attentions spans isnt what they used to be. Largely due to the nature of modern media. We have been programmed to digest quickly and move on. Also - there is a dependency on visual media. If you can (if your course allows it - im lucky in that my stuff does) use it. I find that powerpoints help. Make your lecture notes available to students. Dont spoon feed them. What I do is that immediately after my lectures, I upload my powerpoints or references (if they are links to websites or book references) onto the department server. If students want, they can download the files and keep them. I dont like encouraging them to write down everything in class because then you are so preoccupied with dictation that you sometimes lose the essence of what is taught. I rather they listen and jot down key words, or key points.

Use humour if you can. I find that students are much more receptive and their retention is better if what im teaching is presented in a funny way. This wouldnt work for some courses so you must figure it out.

Make yourself accessible to the students. But not too accessible. Stay behind for a bit (provided there arent any lectures immediately after) and ask the students if they understood everything. Be willing to spend some time with those who come after wards and need stuff to be clarified. The ones who do this are usually the hardworkers that want to do well. Give your e-mail out, but not your cell number.

Dont try to be buddy buddy just for the sake of it. If your personality is such that you are likeable, then all well and good. But dont force it if it doesnt come naturally. Also - Draw the line. The students must feel comfortable around you to express themselves but must know that there is still a Hierarchical structure that must be respected.

Cellphones off. And that goes for you too. That time that you are teaching, is an amanaat (Trust) between you, the students and the University. Its not the time to answer calls from your mates who want to just say hi.

Make sure that your students know what is required of them when you set assignments and projects. I always give guidelines - approximate page numbers help. Ensure that everyone knows what is expected of them. Uniformity is sometimes key. I insist on typed, 12 Font Times New Roman with one and half spacing from all my students. Spend some time going over layout.

Stamp out plagiarism from the word go. This is a huge problem in our universities these days, and it is just exacerbated by the accessibility of information available on the internet. What I do is that whenever i set an assignment, I firstly wikipedia (yes i use it as a verb)the subject matter and read through that a few times, as well as google key phrases in an effort to identify articles or webpages that might be plagiarised.

Be fair with all students. Be consistent with punishment, and reward.

Always be willing to learn and check up from time to time on updated knowledge or revised editions of your specific field. Even something as seemingly static as history changes when new information is brought to the fore.

Jeez. I didnt expect to write so much. I hope this helps though. If you want to know more - just e-mail me at and we can brainstorm :)

I'm going to be sitting on a panel tonight for a radio show being hosted by Fatima Asmal. Its about problems facing our youth and i'l be chatting with Moulana Kamdar, Baba Ali, and Edris Khamissa. So thats 8:30 PM till 10:30 PM on 103 FM Stereo so tune in for that. Its streaming on


My title has nothing to do with this post. I watched the movie last night and I really enjoyed it so I had to put that in there :)


Americanising Desi said...

i loved the movie and everything else in it!

Anonymous said...

Problems facing youth - the inability of the older generation to communicate effectively and in a meaningful way. Secondly, the fault of our elders and youth, a lack of compromise. Call it a result of our media but we want things now. Not tomorrow and not next week. Now. Parents need to set boundaries. Not compete with the next set of parents because their kids have something and your kid makes a face.

Zahera said...

Youre so lame man.. i was looking forward to a review of the movie. I really wana go watch it... will you babysit Abdullah?:( i dont even know what the cinema looks like anymore.. or what the popcorn smells like...

Id love to lecture...