Today, I was invited to give a guest lecture for the Stanford class CS224N: Natural Language Processing with Deep Learning. I was pretty excited about the opportunity. First, I’d never given a lecture to such a big audience before – there are 400+ students in the class. Second, it’s Richard Socher‘s class. He’s hands down one of the most chill professors I know. For some reason, he always looks like he’s just got out of bed and we occasionally catch him biking down the stairs to the classroom. Third, I’d always heard that speaking at NVIDIA Auditorium is lit and I want to try it out before graduating.
To be fair, only about 100 students showed up. The class is recorded so most people probably watch it from home. I myself rarely attend lectures that are recorded — it’d require me to put on proper pants and physically move.
I arrived at the lecture room today feeling slightly nervous. Only slightly because I was confident about the materials — I’ve practiced it a few times teaching it in my own class. I saw a couple of familiar faces in the classroom and immediately put their names on the list of motivated people I know. Then a nice technician guy helped me set up and I thought: “wut, this class has a technician? why nobody helps me set up lectures for my class?” He explained all the buttons to me (we don’t have any button in our classroom, what a shame), showed me the tiny screen on which I can see how the recorded lecture would look like, and a microphone. Now I started to feel nervous. I was taking comfort in the fact that I had a soft voice so most people wouldn’t be able to detect stupid things I say. But a microphone would change everything!
Normally when I teach my class, I’d space down, engage with the students, make jokes. I feel like they know me and would have a higher tolerance for me. But I found it a bit hard to do that in this guest lecture — I was nervous and didn’t quite know how the students would react to my questions/jokes.
Anyhow, I finished my lecture with no major mishap that I was aware of. I kept saying GPA when I wanted to say GPU but that’s a mistake anybody could have made. The students were nice and attentive. There was a guy sitting in the second row that took a nap from the beginning to the end, but I understand, he’s probably a CS major. There was a guy sitting in the first row who was nodding to everything I said, and another guy sitting in the third row who furiously wrote down something on his notebook. I’m not quite sure if they were really listening to what I was saying, but their physical feedback was a great encouragement. I found myself looking at them whenever I was feeling nervous or unsure of myself. I made a mental note to be more physically engaging in classes I take in the future — maybe that’d help the person teaching move along more smoothly with their materials.
I felt pretty good after the lecture. I did something new, learned some lessons, and hopefully helped some students in the process.