Why you should try teaching

Nov. 14, 2022, 7:58 p.m.

About two years ago, I taught mathematics over Zoom to a group of fourth graders twice a week. 

There’s a surprise around every corner … or maybe click? There was pin-drop silence as the students worked out the warmup problem. Suddenly, a student unmuted their microphone and loudly asked if I wrote for my school’s newspaper. They proceeded to explain, quite rationally, that they had collectively searched me up. I found this random question to be ludicrous and reflective of the irreverence that the “iPad generation” has. When I was in fourth grade, my peers and I were more likely to be sending each other chicken-scratch drawings on our Nintendo DS consoles. Of course, coming with the virtual territory, it was not rare to see kids hopping into the calls with wacky screen names (many influenced by “Among Us”) in place of their true names. Looking at their profiles every so often, I would see the students popping up with reindeer antler and jewelry filters. Another of my pupils enjoyed modifying his voice during the calls, answering math problems in a series of squeaks.

The students were always eager and punctual, constantly energetic and with a heartwarming passion for learning. Oftentimes, a handful of students would come early just to chit-chat, as if we were in a classroom only a few feet apart instead of miles away from each other. Their punctuality is a great reminder that coming on time really makes a difference. It can be tempting to “rest your eyes” before 9:30 a.m. class or finish a “Bridgerton” episode before bolting to an evening lab, but so much can be missed in those few minutes that are lost.

We pride ourselves on intellectual vitality, and there’s more among the younger crowds.

Toward the end of one of my classes, I gave the students a puzzle to solve. As time was running out, they firmly expressed their interest in completing the puzzle independently and dropped the link for a separate Zoom meeting in the chat. I was tickled pink to see that the students were determined to take the “road less traveled,” opting to jump into their separate Zoom room as our class ended. 

As a college student, I feel motivated to continue pursuing opportunities that will enable me to support younger students; helping others achieve their own eureka moments is rewarding beyond words. There was no shortage of humorous moments in class, whether it be poking fun at the outlandishness of characters in textbook problems to working through mind-boggling problems.

When I told my pupils that I would no longer be their teacher after December, I heard them groan in dismay. Although it was sad to stop teaching a class that I had bonded with over the past few months, I was glad to hear that the students enjoyed my efforts and iPad scribbles. It was the bittersweet end of teaching my first rambunctious class of fourth graders, but I am thrilled for future opportunities. I urge everyone to try teaching at least once because of the profound impact it has on both the instructor and the student.

Contact Sarayu at smpai918 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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