14:23 Tuesday 10th July 2018

An alternative view of teaching is that it's a job like any other. And thus, in most cases, a complete waste of time.

There's something in business called "The 80:20 Rule". 80% of sales come from 20% of customers, and it's 20% of sellers doing 80% of the selling. 80% of productivity comes from 20% of staff, and 80% of cockups come from another 20%.

This is obviously a gross oversimplification, but some gross oversimplifications are also useful as guides. In my times in universities, I've found that in classes of 19, around 3 students stand to benefit from the course they've signed up to - about 20%. And probably 1 in 5 lecturers manage a better job than a decent textbook. I'd even stick my neck out to say 1 in 5 textbooks are great, and another 1 in 5 are worse than useless, with 3 being mediocre.

And I've got five students. One never pays attention, three sort of grasp the basic point, and yes, one asks all the questions and does all the tasks.

It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that most people are just a bit useless at most things - and there's nothing I can do to change that. How useless? So useless that, in response to that sentence, they think it's a brilliant ripose to say "But have you ever thought you might be the useless one? I bet you never thought of that, did you."


  1. Different strokes for different folks. Some people are just better at picking things up much faster than others. Others need a more creative approach or different motivation. The important thing is that you are doing your best and someone is listening and learning.