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30 May 2018 : My last teaching at Cambridge #
In 2016 I did my first teaching at Cambridge, and now I've just finished what is likely to be my last ever supervision at Cambridge. The course was Part IB security (the second course out of three the students study), and as with all of the Cambridge courses, the structure is lectures and small-group supervisions (tutorials with two or three students). This term I was teaching students from St John's and Peterhouse colleges. My experience this term was made particularly good by a set of diligent and engaged students. In large classes, if there are too many questions it can become overwhelming, but with small groups there's much more scope to cover questions more deeply. Security covers the breadth of topics, from those that are quite straightforward to those that are much more conceptual, and all of the students this year were on the ball both asking very sensible questions, and answering questions for each other. That makes for a much more enjoyable teaching experience (and if you're reading this: good job; I hope you enjoyed the supervisions too).

The Computer Lab, Cambridge

So, I didn't think I'd say this, but I'll miss this teaching. I've had the privilege to experience teaching across multiple HE institutions in the UK (Oxford, Birmingham, Liverpool John Moores, Cambridge). Living up to the high teaching standards of my colleagues and what the students' rightfully demand has been hard across all of these, but it's been great motivation and inspiration at the same time.

And, having grown up in a household of teachers, and after twenty years in the business, I think I've now seen enough of a spectrum to understand both the importance of teaching, but also its limitations. The attitude and aptitude of students plays such a crucial role in their learning. When you only get to interact with students in one small slice of their overall curriculum, there's a limit to how much you can affect this. That's not to downplay the importance of encouraging students in the right way, but rather to emphasise that teaching is a group activity. Students need good teachers across the board, and also need to bring an appetite.

It's great to teach good, enthusiastic students, and to see them grasp ideas as they're going along. But my ultimate conclusion is a rather selfish one: the best way to learn a practical subject is to do it; the best way to learn a theoretical subject is to teach it.

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