Give me a coffee, I’m about to teach something boring.

I think that you always know when you’ve delivered a good lecture. I mentioned fiero a while ago – that feeling of joyful success that makes you want to punch the air. When you get that from a lecture, because you nailed the explanations or everyone participated or a difficult demo came off, you feel good. You feel great.

After a bit of teaching, I came to know the feeling that I associated with a good lecture even in the preparatory stage – I would sometimes be nervous because I wanted the lecture to go well but I was never bored, or dreading the lecture, or grabbing a strong coffee to keep my edge. But I also came to know the opposite feeling. When I’d been dropped in to teach someone else’s material, which I didn’t know so well and that wasn’t in my style. When I hadn’t had a chance to tidy up my own notes from last year or this was the lecture that I’d always planned to rewrite.

That’s when I’d grab a coffee. Because it would keep me awake and stop me yawning while I managed to put myself to sleep. And not really want to be there. And try to get out as soon as possible.

Now, if I’m going to sleep, what is happening in every row behind the first three, where the keen and mature age students sit. Behind the wall of keen, it’s tumbleweed city. Wait long enough and someone will go sufficiently deeply to sleep that they’ll fall off their chair. How could they not? You’re boring yourself, or you don’t believe in it, so you’ve picked up some liquid edge to keep yourself going! The last thing you want to do is to give the caffeine-addicted, energy drink consuming student body even MORE of an excuse to drink caffeinated energy drink – one day, someone is going to explode.

My body was, of course, trying to tell me something important.


(My body speaks in capitals.)

After a while, I got to the level where I could think about a course and read my gut. I’d get that feeling early, that yawny, “I need a coffee” feeling to mask the fact that the content or delivery was boring me. That’s why I spend so much time fixing things up, because I’ve found it far easier to teach a good course that makes me feel good, than teaching a bad course that makes me feel bad. The time spent, which is often non-trivial, comes back to me in nights spent sleeping deeply, rewarding student engagement, and lack of terror. 🙂

We don’t always have the luxury of doing this – we don’t always have the access, time or resources. But, by seizing control when we can and leaving ourselves open to fiero and delight, instead of fear and dread, we do end up making our jobs easier, our teaching better, our students happier and our caffeine levels down.

Well, no more than a few a day. I still like coffee, I prefer to have it as a choice, rather than as an anti-boredom device!


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