Learning Is The Eye Of The Mind

Elena Sidorova, a teacher at Moscow campus, talks about her professional interests and career path at HSE.

Learning Is The Eye Of The Mind

Higher School of Economics gives lots of opportunities for all people willing to do science and expand their horizon. Being a teacher is rather difficult but it is an important and essential job for every society. I’ve decided to learn more about teaching experience in one of the progressive universities in Russia – Higher School of Economics – and asked Elena Sidorova, a graduate of HSE and now a postgraduate student, junior research fellow in the Laboratory of Competition and Antimonopoly Policyan interview and a visiting professor to say some words about her study and work.

Hello, Elena! My name is Liubov and I represent HSE Illuminated magazine, which observes student academic and non-academic life. I know that you used to be a student at Higher School of Economics. How have you come up with the idea of becoming a teacher and following such a career path?

Hi! When I was a student at Higher School of Economics, I was always happy to prepare for the midterms with my group-mates. Since I was an excellent student, I always explained tasks and themes to my colleagues in many subjects. So, for a long period of time, I believed that becoming a teacher is the most brilliant career path I can have. I’ve always understood that I enjoy the process of teaching and feel very happy while explaining tasks in front of the the board. And, as soon as I got such an opportunity to try teaching, I dived into this sphere because it swallowed me. First, I became a teacher in Macroeconomics, then, I continued with Law & Economics, and now I teach Advanced Econometrics at Higher School of Economics.

How long have you already been teaching at Higher School of Economics? Which challenges and difficulties have you faced during this period?

I have been teaching at HSE for the second year. The main challenge for me is not just to understand the issue of the seminar, but to make it clear for all students. It’s a real challenge because there’re always three large groups of students generally. The first one is excellent students, who understand everything very fast and study is quite easy for them. They even don’t need to go to seminars to be perfect, I think. Because sometimes they understand the theme much better than a teacher. The contrast group of students are those who have problems with a fast understanding of the material, the pace of the top-students is too fast for them, so they need clarifying more questions more gradually. And there is the middle group of students. The greatest challenge for me is to combine understanding the material among all those groups of students.

Honestly, I enjoy working with excellent students, because my natural manner of work is quite fast. However, I am so inspired when not that perfect students become fascinated by the subject and do their best because of the motivation! That’s a unique type of happiness, I think.

HSE Illuminated is the magazine also for international students, I wonder whether you had an experience of working with foreign students?

I’m having such an experience now teaching Advanced Econometrics. Our seminars are online because of the pandemic, so I only listen to them during our Zoom calls. I cannot make any conclusions right now, because we have had only seven seminars. However, I can say that they have a too different background - their Bachelors Degrees vary from International Relations to Maths, that makes a process of teaching different from which I have already had.

What gives you the most pleasure during the teaching process at the university?

I like communication with students. Moreover, I like that feeling when you study together with your students. I always learn a lot from our communication and interaction with them. Everyone has his or her way of thinking and it’s so cool to follow that way and learn something personally for you. I guess one of the distinguishable aspects of being a teacher is that you don’t stop learning and gain new knowledge during the working process with your students. This makes this profession really special for me. You never stop self-growing and developing! Also you should always keep the track of events in order to be on the same wave with students and keep communicating.

Which personal qualities are essential for those willing to become a teacher?

Patience. Multitasking. Calmness. You should be always prepared to students' questions at your email and personal messages 24/7 and be ready for sudden challenges and tasks which can arise: checking tests, tasks for seminars, and changing the materials. Also, you should be ready for being criticized by students, because even if you pretend to be a perfect teacher, at least 10-15% of students will tell you that they don’t like something in your work and that they know how it’d be better. Well, I like the critics, but I don’t pay attention to not constructive and emotional notes, which I face sometimes (and every teacher faces with it, to be honest).

What kind of people does Higher School of Economics wait to join their ranks?

People who are ready to be in touch with colleagues almost always, who are ready to rule the subject and who really like being teachers. One should also love Higher School of Economics. It is an additional and highly preferable option.

Do the rewards of this job validate the efforts you make?

That’s a rather philosophical question. First of all, if we measure it only as financial rewards, the answer would be no. The awards are not that high for an effort that is expected. And I spent 50% of the two seminars per day rewards for coffee and meals on that particular day when I hold seminars. However, why do I do that for the second year? The personal utility of teaching for me is rather high, so I do that just because I like that and it adds more colors and energy to my life, making it more complicated and multitasking.

What are your future plans? Would you like to continue your teaching career in the future?

Probably, yes. However, I’m not sure that it will be my main activity because of financial reasons. It will be always like something additional to my key work.

Interview by
Liubov Zaytseva