I am in a little bit of trouble. My job is tutoring, and I need to prepare a lesson for tomorrow. However, I have no idea what the content of the lesson should be, and I would love to do other things than creating the lesson. And I am really confused as to why I am in this state. I have amazing students and a few months ago, I would voluntarily spend tens of hours weekly preparing my lessons just because I absolutely loved the process. But lately, I don’t.
The problem is that I am mixing multiple problems here together.
1) I don’t know what to teach tomorrow.
2) I am not looking forward to figuring that out.
3) I am scared I might not enjoy teaching any more. (That was the most enjoyable thing for me for the last 5 years.)
4) I am scared I might look for a completely different job. (I have no clue what that could be.)
5) A scary implication of point (3): I might never enjoy anything… I won’t be happy. (I don’t think this is rational, but hey, feelings aren’t rational.)
Problems 1 and 2 are pressing, and problems 3, 4, and 5 are quite big and scary. Since 1 and 2 are pressing, I should focus on those right now and deal with the other problems later.
Re: What to teach tomorrow
Fortunately, I have a bit of a constraint. I know the topic we are doing is retrosynthesis, and there was homework my students could have done, so that gives me a starting point.
The other constraint I have is that whatever we do must be fun for the students (that is my most important teaching principle). What could make the lesson fun, then?
The problems we discuss are interesting. They are challenging, but not too much, so they seem approachable.
Something that seemed impossible to solve becomes easy to solve.
Cool, now I feel more like preparing for the lesson.
Re: 2) How to Enjoy the Process
Rn I suddenly started feeling enthusiastic about it.
I am not sure. I will make a few guesses and then see which of them makes the most sense.
I made “what I need to do” more concrete (3/10 sounds right).
II) I created an interesting problem for me (9/10).
III) I had created a more exciting vision of how the lesson could go than I originally had (8/10).
IV) I shifted from “creating a lesson so that it is done” to “creating a great lesson that will be a masterpiece” (8/10).
I think in my head I had some vague idea that the lesson would follow my notes on retrosynthesis from university, and all I need to do is just look through the notes. So I switched from
old problem: How to rehearse notes from university?
to the new problem: How to make a fun lesson on retrosynthesis?
Damn it when I write, “How to make a fun lesson on retrosynthesis?” I get goose bumps from the excitement. I guess I still like teaching.
Btw, I feel I need to think more about why I struggle with not enjoying lesson preparation lately, but a first guess is this: For some reason, I started to think, “I should decrease the time it takes me to prepare the lessons so that I am more efficient.” But that doesn’t give us space to create amazing lessons. And creating amazing (fun, fast-paced, and useful) lessons is what I love.
What I learned…
Wow, I am super excited now because I have discovered two really cool things!
1) About lesson preparation:
When I am preparing a lesson, I should make it an interesting problem for me. In general, that has two components:
a) How will I make it fun for students?
b) How am I going to enable them to learn really fast (so fast that they will be surprised)?
2) About making life amazing
In the process of writing this, I realised that by solving something “small and immediate”—how to enjoy the preparation of tomorrow’s lesson—I came up with a solution to something bigger. I think I answered whether I still enjoy teaching or if I need to look for a different job. In the past six months, I have been thinking hard about “what do I want to do with my life?” and this gives me a hint, which is that I should ask “what do I want to do today?”.