Coffee With Hemalatha Thiagarajan! – A Professor
Its my pleasure to welcome Hemalatha Thiagarajan, Professor from the Mathematics department of NIT Trichy. She handles maths courses in various departments and also a few computer science courses. She is one of the best faculty members of NIT Trichy.
Its a great honour to have Hemalatha Thiagarajan maam on my blog!
Coffee With Hemalatha Thiagarajan! – A Professor!
Me: Sundar Rajan G S
HT: Hemalatha Thiagarajan!
Me: Hello Maam, Welcome to Coffee With Sundar! When did you start you career as a teacher? What are the subjects that you teach?
HT: I started way back in 1979 in Loyola College teaching Math to Undergrads. In arts and Science Colleges I have taught mainly “pure” Math like topology, Analysis. In REC/NIT, I have taught a various courses in Math as well as Computer Science. But I really enjoyed teaching courses like probability, Real Analysis, Discrete Mathematics, Linear Algebra and a course on Mathematical Thinking (The last two courses were offered through the IEEE chapter in NIT)and when these are well received by the students( which is only 50% of the time) I am immensely satisfied. On the computer side I have taught data structures, Algorithms, Theory of Formal Languages and Automata. Somehow these are better received by the students than the Math courses.
Me: Maam, you have been at various positions like HOD, Associate Dean etc? How does these roles affect your teaching process?
HT: If you take up admin positions your teaching does get hit. During this time I started using the black board less and relied on pre-prepared lecture material more. I was not happy doing it. These responsibilities do have their compensations though. You are more in touch with the students and get get a lot of feed back from the students. You are also in a position to implement some of your ideas at least.
Me: Some teachers feel that they should reach out to each and every student in the class.. Others feel that they need not wait for everyone to understand? What (and why) is your stance on this topic, which has a wide spectrum of opinions.
HT: I differ in this respect. I had a discussion with a co-teacher once, who said we have to go down to the level of the last student in the class! What about the bright students then? The answer was they can learn on their own. I disagree with this view. Each institute gets students of a specific standard, and the courses must be taught at that level. Further, I have noticed that if the expectation of the teacher is on the higher side, the students put in extra effort and reach at least 50% of that.
I used to be very upset about the fact that students do not put their heart into learning. But after some courses that I attended, I realized that while I can give 100% to what I do, I am in no way responsible if the student does not give his 100% to learning. I am at peace now and I accept the fact that students may have different
Me: Do you think teachers should have industrial exposure? Do this help?
HT: In the applied fields like engineering it is a tremendous input. You can easily relate what you teach with what goes on in the industry. In mathematics, in some applied courses like Operations Research, Statistics it is a great help. But the math teachers do not have such an opportunity in India.
Me: What is the most satisfying thing for a teacher? In your opinion, What makes a teacher really happy.. ?
HT: The most satisfying thing is to be remembered by your students, who get in touch with you after a long gap and help you in your activities.
Me: What are your other interests. What do you do in your spare time.
HT: I teach High school students. I am a part of the RMO training group in Chennai. I help disadvantaged students in choosing the right career.
Me: Finally maam, what would you like to say to people who want to take up teaching as a profession?
HT: I don’t find students taking teaching as a profession. It is a last resort if they do not get placed. Whatever be the case, you have to first learn what you are going to teach. Go very well prepared for your classes. If you do not know something accept it and invite the students to get the answers. You can learn from your students no harm.
We see the lack of good teachers affecting the high school students learning process. In no time this will spread to institutes of higher learning.
Sundar, time you took teaching as a good career option seriously.
Thank you so much for sparing your time for this interview Maam. I surely will become a prof. 3650 days down the line.. I hope we have more and more good teachers like you. Readers, hope you enjoyed this episode of Coffee With Experts. This episode is the first one from academia. I hope to bring in people from different walks of life, have a chat with them & share the conversation/email over the blog.