In Spring 2013, I taught a course on contemporary international relations of East Asia to a small group of college students at Tufts University. The number of students did not go beyond 20, and owing to the small size of the class, I was able to benefit from much of the discussions that went on in class as a teacher myself.
I recall when I taught my first class as a PhD candidate in the United States. As a first timer, I was young and unequipped with experiences and the know-hows of getting things under control in class. Despite being a carefree person on stage, I would often times be caught up with my inability to cope with the sudden disastrous questions that were thrown at me in class. The second time I taught a class, it was relatively small, and I think I did slightly better than I did in my first experience.
Having returned from fieldwork, I discovered that I had changed and I had also grown up not only as a scholar, but also as a teacher. In the growing up process, I realized that as long as I had a content fully prepared to deliver and I was being simply myself on stage, students would accept me the way I am, and that they would open up themselves to me a lot more. I tried to give them all I could in terms of advising in and outside of class, and I think they appreciated it a great deal.
If I could teach these kinds of classes again, I would do so in a heartbeat. Teaching does take a lot of time to prepare and managing the students is also a very tough task. But I have learned the joy of teaching in a way that I hadn’t in my previous experiences through the kids at Tufts. I miss them dearly.