Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Delayed Gratification

As I sit here, staring at the non-existent hit counts on my weekly serial, it occurs to me just how much writing and teaching have in common. I have no idea which of those two categories you fit into, if either, so go with me here as I explain both. Do tell me if I'm full of it.




REPETITION


How many times does one throw blog links out on social media before one figures it's futile, no one's listening to you? Comparatively, how many times does one repeat a concept in class before figuring it's futile, no one's following you?

For me, the number is probably three.

In writing my serial, two tweets on Sunday, and one on Monday... maybe another on Tuesday if I'm desperate. (For Facebook, one post, then a couple reminders. Parody videos, same treatment.) If THAT doesn't get you to read... well, then I'm not as interesting or important as other stuff in your life that week, so fine.

In teaching mathematics, a couple times on a concept the first day, a follow up the next day... and maybe hit it harder during review if it's a key item. If THAT doesn't make it click... well, the exam panic might, so cramming. But that's not learning any more than binge reading an archive is the same as tuning in every week.

Every week, I'm teaching. Every week, I'm writing. To what end? Are people getting anything out of it?


Team 'Yes': There's always about 10% who are right there with you, saying you're making them think, questioning the plot logic or the mathematics. In the writing, I do get a tweet every few weeks, maybe a comment every couple months. (I need to acknowledge that to myself.) In the teaching, I seem to do better in terms of responses - along the lines of "I enjoyed that" - but the feedback is more immediate by definition.

Team 'No': There's always about 10% who will never really be with you. They look at the serial and say "What's the point of this?" and never return. Or at the mathematics and say "I don't understand" and you may not be able to explain it differently. (By the way, I maintain that it's not that a student can't do the math, they simply may not be able to do it in the time frame needed.) Again, I see more of this in the teaching... where it's a bit more of an issue because they're stuck with you.


TEAM I DON'T KNOW



Regrettably, this leaves up to 80% of friends/followers/students where you don't KNOW if you're making an impression. Or at least, you don't know within the first day/month/year of having presented something. For my writing, this has led to MANY posts, among them:
-If You Build It... So What
-The Pass in Passion
-Why Do You Blog?
-Why I Post
-Being The Outlier
-On Building An Audience
-Writing At The Intersection
-On Seeking Validation

(Yes, I whine a lot when I feel my passions are micro invalidated.) But then, just like writing, one doesn't necessarily know if one is making an impression when teaching either. One may not know until the student graduates. One may never know. Because in our age of "instant gratification", teaching - and writing - is very much a story of delayed gratification.

At the end of the day, I won't have the satisfaction of a working computer program, or a functional garage door, or having played to a sold out crowd. I guess I'll have the satisfaction of this post, but that doesn't mean it's even going to be read by anyone until June! (At which point it may get 50 views. Seriously, my dead web serial is now getting more daily views than my ongoing one. What is even the hell.) Similarly, merely because I teach something today, doesn't mean it's going to be understood by others until June either.

So what's the incentive to keep going? It needs to be more than routine, right? It even needs to be more than the 10%, doesn't it?

I think it's the personal touches that help to bridge the gap. When you can interact on a more one-on-one basis with students - or readers. Which is (of course) where I completely fall down on the writing side, as I always figure saying "READ & VOTE PLS!" means I'm bothering people. Which is sort of reinforced by social media gurus who say not to constantly tweet out links to your stuff.

The funny thing is, some students apologize for bothering me with math questions... and I almost never feel bothered. I like talking math, and I like even more if it helps them to understand something. So I'm not sure why I can't get past that mental block when the situation is reversed. (Maybe because I really am bothering? I mean, no one's forced you to sign up for my serials. Am I actually in anyone's reader out there??)



Oh well. As I say, this simply felt like an interesting link between writing and teaching. Patience, as always, is a virtue. And since I only have 5 views and 1 vote for the weekly web serial, there wasn't much point writing THAT tonight, so you got this instead. Thanks for reading, feel free to take me to task in the comments.

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