2010-04-16

What to do with poor lectures

Average audiences in Israel, especially those who have never lectured themselves, are quite merciless toward poor lectures both in the university and in conferences. They do not hesitate to disclose their dissatisfaction in various offensive ways, e.g., by leaving the lecture room, by sleeping, by reading books and articles not related to the lectures, by chatting with others, or even by complaining with others about the lectures. The lecturers themselves are of course to blame for their poor lectures, but the audience can be more sensitive to their feelings as they can see everything better from the podium.

Although I have been working on the improvement of my teaching in the university, it still sometimes happens that some of my students find my lectures poor and start offending my feeling with their insensitive behaviors in class. Again, I as a lecturer am to blame for their behaviors, but every time I encounter such behaviors, I wish they could be more sensitive. I may be able to improve my teaching skills, but there is one thing I cannot change - incompatibility between what I want to share with my students and their lack of interest. I am rather poor at "marketing" my "merchandise" in which my "customers" were not interested initially. Luckily, this happens mainly with obligatory courses in which some students do not understand why they are forced to learn the subjects.

Having witnessed such insensitive behaviors toward poor lectures by myself or by other lecturers a number of times in Israel, I have decided not to behave like these merciless people. Nevertheless, it is not always easy to listen attentively to poor lectures. There are several types of poor lectures. When the problem is with the way the lecturers speak, such as stammering or speaking with a heavy foreign accept, I do try my best to listen to them. On the other hand, when the problem is with the content, that is, the lectures convey nothing new, thus are unbearably boring, I often work on my own laptop computer, which I shlep everywhere. Of course, this is not a laudable behavior but is probably the least offensive of all the imaginable reactions to poor lectures, as the lecturers can also think that we are taking notes of their lectures. But the best way to cope with poor lectures as a listener is not to come to them in the first place if you can guess in advance that they may be going to bore you.