‘Nowhere Have I Enjoyed Teaching More Than in Russia’
On July 24, the results of the Best Teachers 2017 competition at HSE were announced, with more than 500 teachers from across the university being recognized by students, 80% of whom voted in this year’s competition. While the financial reward for recognition is certainly attractive, the teachers who won appreciated the support of students, as well as the opportunity to reflect on their careers and what has made them successful.
Two of this year’s international winners – Tim Jaekel, Assistant Professor at in the School of Public Administration, and Kosmas Marinakis, Assistant Professor at ICEF and the Faculty of Economic Sciences – agreed to speak with the HSE News Service about what each has learned during their career, what has influenced them, and what makes for a successful teacher.
Kosmas Marinakis and Tim Jaekel
What have been some of the main 'lessons learned' by each of you since you started teaching at HSE?
Tim Jaekel: I am enjoying being among students at HSE, both in terms of cultural diversity and creative intelligence. Students are very demanding while also very flexible. Students at HSE significantly differ from what I knew in Germany. They are flexible in identifying solutions towards a given problem and heavily motivated to reach goals. Given an instruction they exhibit a very high degree of creative intelligence. Networking is an essential part of students’ life; for example, second-year students exchange experiences with their peers from the third year.
Kosmas Marinakis: I have taught at several other places around the world, but nowhere have I enjoyed teaching more than in Russia. The level of HSE students is outstanding. It is a pleasure teaching people who will be the leaders of the future in science, business and politics.
What has served as a source of motivation in your profession? How can one become the best in a profession?
Kosmas Marinakis: I am not sure what the definition of a good teacher is. A teacher can be funny, fair, entertaining, helpful, but you can still learn nothing in the end. Then, another teacher might be harsh and annoying and strict, but these methods work and you indeed learn. For me it is enough if you respect your students and you get pleasure from seeing them succeed.
Every new course I have two goals that I share with my students in the first lecture. The first is that they will learn one or two things that will change their perspective towards science and life. You know, after twenty years you remember only what changes your perspective – nothing else. For the few things that change you, you may think back and you say ‘that Greek guy at HSE taught me this!’ Perhaps they will not remember your name, but they will still remember that thing that you taught them. Only a handful of educators did that to me. The second is that, since we spend those 80 minutes a day together, we should have a good time. I do not want people to be bored. I try to keep them interested. When something is hard and boring, I first try to convince them that it is really worth the time and effort to learn it.
A teacher can be funny, fair, entertaining, helpful, but you can still learn nothing in the end. Then, another teacher might be harsh and annoying and strict, but these methods work and you indeed learn. For me it is enough if you respect your students and you get pleasure from seeing them succeed
I think that there is only one secret: It is impossible to become a good educator unless you struggled as a learner. When you have a hard time following lectures and learning material, you know how the life of some of your students is. You understand how to make everything simpler, how to use examples, how to keep the concentration of the class, and how to break down hard concepts. You understand because you had to do it for yourself during your entire student life.
Other than that one secret, I have some teaching principles that I can share. I think teaching should be organized; everything has to be neat and in order. I try to be punctual and professional and I demand the same from students in return. I do not try to help my students because I love them, for most of them I do not even learn their names (I have around 500 per year!); rather, I have to help them because it is my job, I am a professional in helping people to succeed and I am trying to do my job right.
Tim Jaekel: I am far away from being the best in my profession, but I would like to share three routines that peers may consider helpful.First I use LMS, HSE’s learning platform, to prepare and evaluate my teaching sessions afterwards, to manage performance assessments, as well as to provide students with learning materials. Any student is virtually online 24/7 nowadays, using smartphones both inside and outside the classroom. LMS allows me to post and distribute readings and worksheets in advance. Second, I prepare an action plan for each teaching session by splitting each session into five to ten parts or items. For each part I define a goal, like today I want to introduce the following terms, or deepen their understanding of the concept of XYZ. I define particular actions, or treatments to achieve this learning effect. I also allocate an amount of time for each of these actions. Third, I allocate clearly defined tasks to students, for example, as part of group work activities.
Did ever you meet any distinguished professors as a student? What do you remember impressing you most?
Tim Jaekel: Uwe Wagschal, now Professor for Public Policy at the University of Freiburg, Lars P. Feld, director of the Walter Eucken Institut, Professor for Economic Policy at the University of Freiburg, and a member of the German Council of Economic Experts, and Manfred G. Schmidt, Professor for Public Policy – all of them deeply and continuously inspired me when I was a student at the University of Heidelberg in Germany.
Kosmas Marinakis: I met a few great professors that showed me the way. Professor Theodore Lianos, Professor Walter Thurman, and Professor Alistair Hall were my teaching superheroes. But I learned more about how to become a better teacher from those professors who were so particularly bad in teaching. They showed me how I should not be.
Anna Chernyakhovskaya, specially for HSE News service
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Thank You for Choosing HSE!
Several HSE instructors recognized as ‘the best’ in their fields would like congratulate students with the start of academic year and hope that they don’t give in to procrastination, take advantage of all opportunities available at HSE, have a good sleep before exams at least once, and remember that teachers are humans too!
Assistant Professor at International College of Economics and Finance